BAGHDAD â€” Troubled with the daily car bombs and threats of violence, Iraq‘s top-notched students want to escape the chaotic future of their war-ravaged nation.
“I dream of studying abroad,” aspiring medical student Raghad Saad told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Monday, October 1.
“The high cost of studying abroad dwarfs my ambitions,” added the young girl who came fifth in her secondary school in Baghdad.
Raghad was among dozens of top-notched students rewarded by the government with laptops and computers for their distinguished results.
“I wish that the state would send us to pursue our studies abroad so that we can also prove our supremacy there,” said top pupil Mohammed Dawood.
“We could be prepared to serve Iraq in future.”
Mustafa Bashar shares the same dream.
“If I managed to get a scholarship to study abroad, that would be better,” he said.
“If the situation improves, it would be better to stay in Iraq near our dear family.”
Bashar Sabah will leave for the Jordanian capital Amman to pursue his studies in medicine.
“My father decided to take me there saying he wanted me away until things settle down.”
Since the 2003 US invasion, Iraq has been suffering from a serious brain drain with academics taking the brunt of the vicious cycle of violence.
According to UNESCO estimates, 280 Iraqi academics, including 186 university professors, had been killed since 2003, with 180 killed between February and November last year.
The top students regretted that the deteriorating situation forced many of them to pursue their study at home.
“In the house we moved to I had to sit on the floor and study by candlelight,” said literature graduate Fatima Najim Mohammed.
“It’s the normal way of life for all the displaced students in Iraq.”
Electricity and clean water have become something of a luxury in the capital Baghdad, let alone in other towns and villages across the devastated country.
Baghdad residents are sleeping on hard floors or roofs, suffering interminably without fans or air-conditioning as temperatures frequently reach 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in summer.
They are also being forced to buy bottled water or drink contaminated water from purification plants without power.
The spiraling violence is also forcing many students to stay at home to avoid being killed.
“When the road is sealed off or blocked, we stay at home,” said Raghad, who received private tuition to help her through.
A low turnout of Iraq’s 5.5 million pupils marked the first day of the new school year which began on Sunday, September 30.
Many parents preferred to wait a few days to assess the security situation before sending their kids to classes.
A UNESCO report said that the ongoing violence has left the Iraqi education system in a state of near collapse.
“Only 30 percent of Iraq’s 3.5 million students are attending classes, compared to 75 percent in the previous school year,” it noted.
“Baghdad universities are reporting attendance down by 40 percent. In some departments, attendance is down to one-third. More than 3,000 academics have fled the country.”