There has been a dramatic increase in private schools in Basra. In 2007 there were five. Today there are around 466, says Bassem al-Qatarani, a spokesperson from the Department of Education. An estimated 20 percent of the province's 800,000 students are registered at private schools now. And al-Qatarani thinks that current policies will only increase that amount further.
“Private schools have been able to overcome some of the problems faced by the public system,” says Nathem Karim, a school supervisor, referring to a lack of modern teaching methods and equipment. “We may actually see the whole sector privatized eventually.”
“Private schools run classes continuously,” notes Firas Ali, the head of a Basra private school. “They don't interrupt their classes during the school year. There is also no delay in getting books and stationery to students, as happens in public schools.”
Additionally Firas is happy that Basra's private schools are providing job opportunities to both male and female teachers who had not been able to get work in the state sector. “It has also allowed retired educators, who are specialists, to return and share their experience and expertise.”
“Students of Basra's private schools are ranking first in a variety of educational areas,” Ali continues. “We attract the best teachers and our quality of instruction is high.”
However that kind of success is coming at an ever increasing cost. As demand for private education grows in Basra, so do the school fees. Primary school students have to pay about IQD1.5 million (around US$1,128) per year and secondary school students pay between IQD3 million (around US$2,200) and IQD5 million (around US$3,700) per year. As it does elsewhere in the world, this means private schools are only available to the children of wealthier local families.