By Steven Ehrenberg
All Iraqi kids missed two months of school during the war, and they've been making up for lost time this summer. With the help of exam booklets printed by UNICEF, about 5.5 million Iraqis just took their final exams.
UNICEF (UN International Children's Emergency Fund) was founded 57 years ago to help the UN provide European children with food, clothing, and medicine. With more than 7,000 people working in 158 countries around the world, it is now the world's leading organization in protecting children.
From Best to Worst
Ten years ago, Iraq had one of the best education systems in the Arab world. But before the war, a quarter of Iraqi children didn't go to elementary schooland two thirds never made it to high school.
UNICEF has taken charge of repairing schools, training teachers, and providing pens, paper, and textbooksall the supplies many Americans students take for granted. Many schools were used for non-school purposes during the war. They sheltered Iraqis, served as makeshift medical-care facilities, and stored supplies.
By the fall, the United States, together with UNICEF, plans to send over a million "schools in a box"kits containing enough chalkboards, backpacks, and materials for 80 studentsto Iraq.
"We're calling on both Iraqis and the parties shaping Iraqi society to
make the protection of children job number one," said UNICEF Executive Director
Carol Bellamy. "They should be our first prioritynot only in
words, but in action. And frankly, I'm not seeing nearly enough action for children."