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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Iraq’s Former Higher Education Minister Strives to Improve Universities

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His work began with the formation of a research team that secretly visited a site of such wastes, about 15 kilometers from Baghdad, in coordination with the Iraqi Army’s Samarra Operations Command, which accompanied the team during the visit and worked to provide full protection for the site and the roads leading to it.

The main objective of these visits was to assess the condition of the site and study the geological map before reaching proposals to safely remove the remnants of chemical weapons.

“We also obtained American documents and reports of the international inspection committees that helped us decide on the appropriate method of destroying the site,” said Al-Issa, noting that this project drained large sums of money spent on research committees and delaying the completion of the mission.

“The project was a source of profit for many of those who received money as allowances for travel and transportation, as well as for the expenses of inspection committees coming from outside Iraq,” he said.

The most difficult step was to persuade the intergovernmental Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to endorse the ministry’s plan to destroy the site, while developing proposals for monitoring, according to Al-Issa.

“We managed to obtain their approval, and a destruction plan was made for the entire site without any damage,” he said. “We also obtained a certificate for Iraq to complete the chemical weapons destruction program by the director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague in 2018.”

Sectarian Political Pressure

Security and logistical difficulties were not the only obstacles faced by Al-Issa to advance the country’s higher-education sector. He faced pressure from communities that rejected his policies due to his independence from the parliament’s sectarian quota system.

He was called twice for questioning by the parliament, with the aim of pushing him to agree to allow failed students to pass to a higher academic year.

“Most of these demands were an attempt to impose academic results, select students for universities on the basis of political loyalty, and set different standards for academic excellence that do not reflect students’ actual potential,” he said. (See a related article, “Theoretical Swimming: Iraqi Student Life Under Religious Rule.”)

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