Sunday, 12 September 2010

Teachers begin planning school trips to Iraq in wake of US withdrawal

Children set off to see the cultural riches of Iraq
Following the withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq many are now asking whether it is time to start taking schoolchildren to Iraq. Renowned for its ancient history and unique ecosystems, Iraq has long been seen as prime destination for school trips. Some teachers have already begun planning to take their classes there.

"It was a bit tricky when Saddam was in power," explains Mr Hurst of Yarrow School, Brentwood. "You got followed around by secret police all the time. Then it was kind of risky for a while after the US invaded and some Iraqis weren't too happy about that, and sectarian groups waged a bit of a civil war against each other. Now it's all fine and dandy and I think its about time my kids got to learn about the place."

Mr Hurst admits that Iraq is not a destination for younger children. "It's a long way to go," he said. "The culture is quite different from ours, which can be disorientating, and of course it gets very hot in the desert."

Mrs Kenan of The Jemima Lyttleton School for Girls in Reading is also planning a trip to Iraq. "We're aiming for early winter this year," she said. "My girls can't wait to see the ruins of Babylon and the Mesopotamian Marshes. Some of them are learning Arabic and we're hoping to meet Iraqi girls we can do foreign exchanges with in the future."

Both teachers were enthusiastic about the poor availability of alcohol in Iraq following the Mahdi Army militia campaigns of recent years. "God knows we don't want a repeat of that trip to Kendal," said Mrs Kenan. "Gone are the days when girls are happy to stick with mint cake I can tell you. I'm not saying I agree with repeatedly beating anyone who sells alcohol with sticks, but if it means not spending a night in the hospital while Gemma Trotwood gets her stomach pumped I'm all for it."

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has issued a brief statement advising teachers: 'While Iraq is now a peaceful democracy, we recommend that teachers taking children there on school trips check our regularly updated travel advisory notices both before and during their journeys.'

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