Iraq has signed agreements with two Chinese companies to build 1,000 schools in the country in the space of two years, an Iraqi government official said on Sunday.
The country needs a total of 8,000 schools “to fill the gap in the education sector”, a housing ministry official, Hassan Mejaham, was quoted as saying by the official Iraqi News Agency.
The deals were signed on Thursday in the presence of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi, with Power China, to build 679 schools and Sinotech the remaining 321.
Despite being rich in oil, Iraq has suffered for decades from crumbling infrastructure because of successive wars and endemic corruption.
Construction of the schools is due to be completed in two years, with the first delivered a year after work begins “very soon”, Mejaham said.
He added that Iraq would pay for the project using oil products.
A second phase will see the construction of an additional 3,000 schools, with 4,000 more to be built in a final phase.
“Decades of conflict and under-investment in Iraq have destroyed what used to be the best education system in the region,” UNICEF said on its website, adding that “one in every two schools is damaged and needs rehabilitation”.
In the country of 40 million people, “there are close to 3.2 million school-aged Iraqi children out of school”, it said.
The World Bank warned in October that already low levels of education levels were further threatened by the coronavirus pandemic, and called for international investment in the sector.