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Iraqi Schools Reopen After Repeated Delays  - 2004-10-02

With tight security in place, schools in Iraq opened Saturday after delays caused by increasing violence in the country. Most students seemed very excited to get back to the classroom.

After a month of delay, school doors finally opened in Iraq.

The interim government postponed the start of school for 30 days, due to security concerns related to fighting in the Shiite section of Baghdad, in Najaf south of the capital, and west of Baghdad, in Fallujah.

So, when school bells rang Saturday, students and concerned parents were greeted by additional security guards, police, and physical searches for weapons.

Secondary school English teacher Siham Abdel Hamid says everyone is cooperating.

"We have police at the door," she said. "They are searching everything. And, all the teachers here in the school cooperate with the principal, in order to search the school every day to see if there is anything here."

With the insurgency across Iraq intensifying and claiming more lives, many parents have decided not to send their children to school this year, according to Baghdad secondary school principal Sanna Naji Abass.

Ms. Abass says, this year is much worse than it was at this time last year. She says many families are not sending their children to school, because the situation is very unstable. Ms. Abass says, she decided not to send her own children to school.

But the overwhelming majority of Iraqi students are attending classes, but with stern words of warning from their parents.

Rania Hisham is an 11th grade student. The 16-year-old says her father has told her many things about staying safe. She says he warned her not to leave the school alone, and that if anything happens, she should make sure to take care in every way.

Rania's classmate is Hansa Kher. She says her parents advised her not to be afraid, even if there are any explosions. She says they told her to stay inside the school, do not walk home alone, and if anything ever happens, to call her parents immediately.

Most students said they were excited to finally get back to school, just so they could be with their friends.

And, this year, students will find a broader curriculum of courses, while teachers will have new textbooks to hand out, new lesson plans and new teacher manuals.

During the summer, teachers took refresher courses in how to teach and how to behave toward children. According to Ministry of Education officials, it is all part of an effort to reverse the damage caused by the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, who was said to be more interested in the loyalty of teachers than in their ability to teach.