Iraqi Education Ministry orders children back to school as Health Ministry warns of Covid-19 spread

Iraqi Education Ministry orders children back to school as Health Ministry warns of Covid-19 spread
The Iraqi Ministry of Education said that all children would return to school after the summer holidays, while Health Ministry officials warned that this could increase the spread of Covid-19.
3 min read
08 August, 2021
Iraq is currently recording thousands of Covid-19 infections every day [Getty]

Iraq has announced that all school children will be sent back to the classroom at the start of the academic year, despite the threat of a further spread of Covid-19

The decision by Iraq’s Ministry of Education was made, however, as officials from the country’s Ministry of Health warned that the health system was on the verge of collapse and that the situation in the country was not conducive for a return of students to schools.

“The next academic year will be in complete attendance, and the educational and teaching staff must take the vaccine,” said Ali Hamid Al-Dulaimi, Iraq’s Minister of Education

Al-Dulaimi also stressed the “the importance of adhering to preventive and health measures in schools" and said that the ministry was "making efforts for that.”

The Education Ministry did not confirm a specific date for the return of children to school, but did say that vaccines will be administered in the coming period. 

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said that they will coordinate with the Health Ministry on testing and that “any student who feels unwell must get test results from the health centre indicating their condition.”

However, officials at the Ministry of Health said that the current situation in the country does not lend itself to the restarting of schools, given the high risk of infection, and the impossibility of vaccinating more than 10 million students in the one month remaining of the summer holidays. 

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“The number of infections and the current speed of the virus's spread has reached its most dangerous stage, and any return to schools will be very dangerous, unless the health situation improves, and the speed of the epidemic is controlled,” an official at the Ministry of Health told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service.

“The problem also lies in the inability to control the students, and force them to abide by preventive measures, as well as the fact that primary school aged children are not prepared to receive the vaccine,” the official added.

The official called on the Health Ministry to “study the decision in all its aspects” and remain patient. 

Iraq’s seven day average for new daily infections is currently 11,109, with the country hitting a weekly high of 12,734 new cases on Monday. 

To date, Iraq has recorded 1.7 million infections and 19,146 deaths. 

Iraqi parents have also expressed disquiet about the decision. 

“The decision has increased our fears. The Ministry [of Education] should be more careful about students, and its decisions should be issued in coordination with the Ministry of Health,” Ghaleb Al-Khuzaie, a father of two schoolchildren, told The New Arab's Arabic-language service.