Today that positive outlook has taken a beating: Only 43 percent of Iraqis rate their local schools as "good" -- down from 74 percent in December 2005. There has been a stark drop in the numbers of children attending school -- not a reflection of the quality of schools, necessarily, but the safety of the schools. "Simply getting to class," according to one account, "has become an accountable risk for many…" According to Iraq's Ministry of Education, only 30 percent of 3.5 million Iraqi elementary-school children are attending classes -- a remarkable drop from 75 percent two years ago. While the vast majority of schools remain open and the government has instituted a relocation program for families who want to move their kids to safer areas, millions of children are receiving a sporadic education at best. The Education Ministry has hired thousands of guards to protect schools, and it recently increased teachers' salaries by 20 to 50 percent in an attempt to entice them to stay in their jobs.
A joint study by the Ministry and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) last year found that of those who do not attend school, 74 percent are female. Aid agencies estimate that thousands of Iraqi parents do not send their daughters to school for cultural reasons and because of the general insecurity in the country.
Several ABC News personnel have witnessed the troubles first hand. Correspondent Dan Harris was at a university campus when gunfire broke out; a Baghdad primary school teacher, who asked not to be identified by name, said many parents pulled children from the school once they learned it was guarded by the Mahdi Army; and a 28-year-old mother of two told USA Today that her children now keep cell phones in class so that she can check on their safety -- and that they "talk about the bodies they see in the street, about the car bombs, and the explosions."
Education professionals killed (since 2003): 155
Overall attendance rate:
2006: 50 percent
Elementary school attendance rate:
2004: 75 percent 2006: 30 percent
Since 2003, USAID has rehabilitated nearly 3,000 schools and supplied, together with UNESCO, 20 million new textbooks.
North: same or worse Central: worse South: same
The ICRC reports that "health services and infrastructure have steadily deteriorated," calling the situation in Baghdad "particularly critical." Dr. Ibraheem Maroof, of Baghdad's Yarmouk Hospital, told us that "Our hospital is the main center for emergencies in Baghdad -- and most of our equipment is not functioning." From our survey, we know this much: That in our last poll 62 percent of Iraqis told us the availability of health care was "good;" today that figure has dropped by half, to 31 percent.
Medical staff in Iraq today often lack adequate protection; more than half the country's registered doctors have fled, according to the ICRC -- a shocking and obviously damaging development. One doctor -- a 29-year-old general practitioner named Hassanain Abdul Jabaar, told us he quit because the trip to his Baghdad hospital had become too dangerous. "I think I'm done," he said. "There is no hope for the medical practice in Iraq."