Global Policy Forum

Damaged University Science Labs Are

Integrated Regional Information Networks
October 9, 2005

Iraq's university laboratories suffered heavy damage during the US invasion two years ago and are desperately short of essential equipment and chemicals needed to teach medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and several science subjects, according to teaching staff. As a result, 15 students or more have to share a single set of equipment during practical experiments, three times more than the internationally recommended maximum of five.

University teachers grumble that thousands of graduates are being turned out every year who are short on practical knowledge. "We have been suffering from a lack of certain items essential for our laboratories and many of the chemicals are in short supply. This has resulted in students ending their year without the knowledge they need to be good professionals," said Professor Fakry al-A'ani, who teaches medicine at the biological sciences faculty of Baghdad University.

He complained that students of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and biology at universities throughout Iraq had to conduct experiments in unwieldy groups of 15 or more because of the shortage of equipment and materials. However, the situation was particularly acute in Baghdad, the professor stressed. "International educational standards say that a maximum of five students should conduct a laboratory experiment together, but here we have to do it with three times as many," al-A'ani noted.

Salah Adhab, a senior official in the Ministry of Higher Education, explained that Iraq's universities had suffered heavy looting following the US-led invasion of 2003 and most of their laboratories had been damaged. Many labs were totally destroyed and some had been set on fire, while expensive machines used to make medicine or analyse blood samples had been looted or destroyed, he noted.

However, the Ministry of Higher Education was suffering a budget squeeze and could do little to improve the situation until parliament voted it more money, Adhab said. "The situation is not in our hands, since we depend on the Iraqi parliament to approve budgets for these kinds of investments," the official said. "We know that many universities are still using old equipment and chemicals left over from the time of Saddam Hussein."

Students are also complaining about the dilapidated state of their laboratories. "Our profession does not just depend on lectures. We require practice in all the areas we study," said Nadeem Abdel-Kader, a final year student of pharmacy. "In view of this shortage of materials, we are leaving college without the practical experience that our colleagues had before 2003," "Sometimes there is not even a small mouse or a frog for an experiment in our laboratories, which is a shame for a country as rich as Iraq," he complained.

Professor Al-A'ani pointed out that much of the equipment which was still working in Iraq's university laboratories was old and out of date and would need replacing soon anyway before it broke down completely.

A senior official in the Iraqi Parliament, who prefers to remain anonymous, said that proposals for a budget to re-equip the universities had been put forward, but they had been sidelined for the time being because of heavy spending on security. The increasingly intense battle against insurgents was eating into funds originally earmarked for reconstruction, he added. "The Iraqi government is suffering from a drastic lack of funds, but we will try to support those universities in accordance with our financial means," the official said.

More Information on Iraq
More Information on the Consequences of the War in Iraq


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.