UNICEF and Nokia partner to rebuild eight schools in Iraq

By Ban Dhayi

AMMAN, Jordan, 20 October 2008 - The Nokia mobile communications company and UNICEF have launched a unique public-private partnership for children in Iraq to rebuild eight primary schools affected by conflict, displacement and poverty.

The $1 million initiative is operating in two of the poorest areas in southern Iraq and the northern Kurdish region with the goal of creating safe, stimulating school environments in which children can receive a quality education.

The project aims to reduce overcrowding in schools that are accommodating displaced children. It is doing so by building additional classrooms and providing school books, pens, pencils and other essential learning materials. Through the project, dilapidated classrooms and playgrounds have been refurbished, separate latrines for girls added and new classroom furniture provided.

Schools as a place of refuge

Schools in Iraq have become increasingly important as a refuge for children and a place to nurture their potential. However, many of Iraq's schools are in critical condition after years of conflict and neglect. Over 1,200 primary and intermediate schools have been rehabilitated by UNICEF since 2003, in an effort to boost enrolment rates, encourage regular attendance and lighten the load on teachers.

"Iraqi children need safe and welcoming schools to reduce the impact of conflict on their education," said UNICEF Iraq Chief of Education Mette Nordstrand. "Experience tells us that simply restoring a damaged school can transform a child's experience of learning and renew their sense of purpose. Nokia is providing a much-needed boost to this important work."

'The heart of any community'

Added the head of Nokia community involvement for sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Micheline Ntiru:

"Nokia shares UNICEF's vision that a school is the heart of any community, and education is the best foundation for a child's future. We are proud to partner such an important effort to support Iraq's schoolchildren during these difficult times and remove some of the challenges they face. We believe these investments will pay rich dividends for children's lives and for their country in years to come."

The project, in its initial phase, will last throughout 2008. It will support approximately 6,458 children (more than half of whom are girls) and 307 teachers.