Mesopotamia is often described as the cradle of civilisation, a place where agriculture, trade, and literature (to name but a few) were devised. What may surprise some is that the area where the ancient civilisation of Mesopotamia was situated is what is now known as Iraq.
Yet a country which has flourished in the past centuries has come to a standstill in the one thing which it is famed for: learning, or to more specific, higher education. Since the 60’s and 70’s Iraq has fallen in its higher education ranking, and even more so in the last decade. What was once considered to be one of the best education systems in the Middle East has suffered from: infrastructural problems, lack of funding, academic ‘brain drain’, and increased violence. According to Christopher Hill (The Conversation), Iraq has seen a depletion of qualified academics and a general loss of faith. During the 2003 War on Iraq, more than 80% of the Universities were bombed, causing further problems for those wishing to attain a higher education.
With the supposed end of the ‘War on Terror’ and the slow stabilisation of the Iraqi nation the Minister for higher education and scientific research, Ali al-Adib, has proposed a reform in which the construction of 13 new universities and 28 colleges will take place. These universities and colleges will be constructed throughout the country with the assistance of UNESCO, the World Bank, and UNICEF.
These universities and colleges are a welcome reprieve from the current daily struggle of the Iraqi people. According to Ali al-Adib, the last decade has caused an entire generation to be subjected to various forms of violence, as well as sectarianism. The new universities will provide a safe learning environment. However, this statement has not yet proven to be true as a recent suicide bombing at the Imam Kadhim University (Baghdad) took the lives of nine university members. However, upset over the parliamentary elections were said to be the cause of this attack.
The education system has received further support through the possibility of overseas study. The Iraq Educational Initiative, which began in 2009, offers Iraqi students scholarships to study in English speaking countries. There is currently US$200 million in scholarships available. Countries such as Malaysia, Turkey, Greece, India, UK and the US are just some of the countries which offer Iraqi student higher educational degrees. In 2012 over 22,000 scholarships were awarded to students wishing to study for their masters or doctoral degrees.
In a country where war has been the main issue for over a decade, education is a way in which the students can strive to become something other than another casualty in the war.