Education means human development. It is the foundation of the macro development of any country. What perspective does Iran’s press reflect on the educational situation?
State-run website Rouydad-e-24 on January 20, 2021 carried a report from Sardasht Dezful trailer School in which three students and two teachers were burned, while looking at the statistics of schools which exist in trailers:
“Khuzestan province has 1300 trailers schools and Sardasht region of Dezful has 13 trailer schools and two stone made schools.”
Earlier the state-run daily Arman on September 23, 2018 wrote: “There are no monetary schools in any of the developed countries. They have made education free because they are aware of the shortcomings and calamities of the monetized education system.”
According to the statistics provided by Iran’s Statistics Center, in 2010, some 9,483,028 people were considered illiterate in Iran, of which 6,025,965 million were women.
At the beginning of the 2020 academic year, Hamid Reza Rakhshani, Director General of Education of Sistan and Baluchestan Province, said: “Some 400,000 students in Sistan and Baluchestan do not have access to virtual education.” (Mehr news agency, October 14, 2020)
Also, a member of the Education Commission of Iran’s parliament announced: “Some 5 million students in the country do not have a smartphone and Internet access. It is estimated that 3 million students in the country will not have access to a smartphone and 2 million students will not be able to access the Internet.” (Tasnim, August 31, 2020)
Corruption mafia in education
On December 18, 2018, a fire at the ‘Aswa Hasna’ Preschool Center in Zahedan seriously injured four female students. All four later died of their burns in hospital. After this incident, Iran’s Minister of Education said: “With the current budget of the Ministry of Education, it will take eight years to remove (oil) heaters from schools.”
Recently, Mohammad Batahi, the former Minister of Education of Iran, in response to the removal of school oil heaters, acknowledged the root of inefficiencies in the education ministry and said:
“Nowhere in the world is education like here where children are tortured with such hardships, taking all their might and possessions so that they bring good grades in the entrance exams. Especially when I was in the ministry and had access to some information, in 2017 we had a turnover of up to 15 trillion tomans from those who depended on the schools and colleges for entrance exams, tests, and textbooks. (State TV Channel 5, January 22, 2021)
The then spokesman of the judiciary, Gholam Hossein Ejei, said in a press conference on November 11, 2018: “Two former CEOs of Sarmayeh Bank have recently been arrested, who have a heavy charge in the field of cultural reserve fund.”
“The Cultural Reserve Fund has more than 800,000 members affiliated with the Ministry of Education and pays them annual interest on cultural depositors’ monthly deposits. The ‘Capital’ Bank is also a subsidiary of this fund.” (State-run news agency IRANA, November 11, 2018)
50 luxury schools next to the luxury tombs
Alongside the luxury seminaries of the mullahs, built at the price of the poverty of Iran’s people; Qudratullah Alizadeh, a member of the council for overseeing Iran’s non-governmental schools, admitted: “Of the 17,000 non-governmental schools, perhaps under 50 are luxury and special schools. Most of these schools, i.e., more than 30, are in the north of Tehran, and unfortunately most of our officials, who may also have schools, live there. These schools make good money.” (State-run Khabar Fouri website, January 27, 2020)
Drop Out of Education, the Product of the Rule of Extreme Poverty
Although conflicting statistics are available on the number of children dropping out of school, the trend towards monetization and commodity education is the most important issue that has excluded children from the education cycle. The state-run daily Hamdeli on September 22, 2019 wrote in a report on the statistics of dropout children studying in 2019-2020: “The number of children who dropped out of school is estimated at between 100,000 and over 3 million.”
According to Iran’s statistics center, Sistan and Baluchestan Province ranks first in Iran for school dropouts. Children in this province are forced to drop out of school due to poverty, lack of schools in the villages, lack of teachers and lack of proper roads.
“According to official statistics, 127,000 children have dropped out of school in Sistan and Baluchestan province in the 2019-2020 academic year.” (IRNA – February 1, 2020)
Dilapidated sheds and trailer schools are a disgrace to a rich country
Trailer schools, along with other misfortunes of the country’s schools, such as old and worn-out schools, classrooms with dilapidated roofs, old oil heaters, etc., show the bitter reality of this rule. After announcing the death of the second student in Dezful’s trailer School, a social media user named Rahgozar wrote: “In the 21st century, in a country that is considered one of the richest countries in the world in terms of oil and gas resources, there are still shed and trailer schools. Isn’t that a shame?” (State-run daily Hamdeli, January 23, 2021)
On August 31, 2019, the director general of Hormozgan school renovation, development and equipment said: “There are currently 670 non-standard schools in the province, of which 220 must be completely destroyed.”
On July 7, 2019, the director general of school renovation in Alborz province said of the critical situation of school shortage: “About 40 percent of Alborz’s schools need to be repaired, demolished and rebuilt because in case of an earthquake in Alborz province, the old schools will be vulnerable and will be destroyed.”
The director general of Iran’s education in South Khorasan said: “Currently, 420 classrooms are needed in South Khorasan province, of which 238 classrooms are needed in Mehr Birjand housing site, 119 classrooms in Mehr housing sites in other cities, and 63 classes in Birjand satellite towns.” (Provincial TV, September 6, 2019)
Director General of School Renovation of Kermanshah Province: “Out of 3,900 educational spaces, 1,200 schools, i.e., one third of the educational space of the province, need to be demolished, rebuilt and rehabilitated.” (Provincial TV, August 30, 2019)
Where is the money for Iran’s children spent?
Iran’s Minister of Education had previously claimed that it would take eight years to remove all shed schools in Iran if the budget were provided.
In estimating the budget for the year 2020, the per capita budget of each theological student in the ministries is equal to the per capita of roughly 198 students.
During the seven-year war in Syria, in addition to military intervention, Tehran provided billions of dollars in economic aid to Bashar al-Assad’s government. On August 31, 2018, referring to the economic agreement between Iran and Syria, the Mehr news agency reported that ‘30,000 housing units have been built in Syria.’
An Iranian said in response to the fire at Dezful’s shed school: “The condition of schools in affluent cities is not comparable to that of remote villages and areas. Is forty years a little time to reorganize the country’s schools?”