In an unprecedented move, demonstrators protesting in front of the Education Ministry building in central Baghdad in October accused Iqbal of corruption, claiming that his siblings have been printing textbooks with the presses they own in Jordan and selling them to book dealers.
Al-Monitor has learned from a number of citizens that textbooks are available in Baghdad’s Mutanabi Street, where books are sold by dealers at high prices.
Baghdad resident Abdul Amir al-Khafaji told Al-Monitor, “You can find any textbook that is part of the school’s curriculum here, but books are sold at very high prices.”
Member of parliament Kazem al-Sayadi, who is also a member of the parliamentary education committee, believes that corruption is the cause behind the textbook crisis. He told Al-Monitor, “There are some mafias controlling the writing materials and textbook contracts, stealing from the Education Ministry allocations, amounting to 7% of the annual budget. Most of the money that is supposed to be used for meeting the needs of schools is going right into the pockets of some corrupt figures.”
Member of parliament Riyadh al-Saidi, who is also a member of the parliamentary education committee, shares Sayadi’s opinion. “The fact that the school curriculum books are found on the black market is further proof that some officials within the Education Ministry are deliberately delaying the distribution of textbooks so that the dealers they are working with have the chance to sell their books and increase profits,” Saidi told Al-Monitor.
What makes things worse in the education sector is the fact that with the onset of the new academic year, which began Sept. 29, there are still many Iraqi cities that lack schools. The country needs 20,000 schools to accommodate all the students. Currently, there are about 16,000 schools in Iraq.