for Baghdad Collected More than 11,000 Textbooks for Baghdad University
By Dave Howell
With more than 110,000
U.S. troops serving in the Middle East, helping bring freedom to and
stability to Iraq, many other Americans here at home have wondered what
they can do to assist in the effort. Jacksonville State University's
own Dr. Safaa Al-Hamdani, an Iraqi-born American citizen and alumnus
of Baghdad University, found one way to do just that.
In 2004 Dr. Hamdani
established the Books for Baghdad project, an international effort whose
purpose was to help support the education system in Iraq by collecting
and donating at least 5,000 textbooks. Since the war, the entire nation
has suffered a critical shortage of academic resources and books for
its students. Iraqi university libraries were severely depleted and
outdated due to two decades of sanctions, regime rule, active conflict,
Not only did the
book drive reach its goal, but it well exceeded this number with a total
collection of more than 11,000 textbooks which were donated and shipped to
Baghdad University in April. The book drive emphasized math and science
books, but they also received many books in English, History and Social
Sciences. In addition, the project donated school supplies and teaching
materials. Dr. Hamdani hopes the effort will help Baghdad University
get back on its feet after decades of decline.
of Saddam did not spend money on education or they did not spend enough,"
Hamdani said. "Iraq was under sanction by the United Nations for 13
years and in addition to that, many wars took place in Iraq. This caused
devastation to the education in Iraq."
Hamdani's home town
in Iraq is located in what is now referred to as "the Green Zone."
When Hamdani came back to the state after the conclusion of the "Grand
War," he saw many libraries being burned down through the looting and
"I decided to do
something for this," he said. With the help of my colleagues and the
students here at JSU and with the generosity of a lot of faculty and
many universities across the United States and Canada, we succeeded
in accomplishing our goal.
The idea to donate
textbooks started when Hamdani was in Jordan in 2001-2002 as a Fulbright
Scholar. He had the opportunity to meet several faculty members from
Baghdad University. They exchanged information and Hamdani found out
that most of the textbooks they have are 30 to 40 years old. He took
about four boxes of textbooks with him and said the teachers were "very
thrilled and happy to receive them."
has a tremendous value, especially if you don't have that specific textbook.
So the library of Baghdad University right now is rich with many, many
topics. They are very, very appreciative to our effort here at Jacksonville
State University in supporting the education in Iraq," Hamdani said.
that during this tumultuous time in Iraq's rebuilding efforts, the students
of Baghdad University will now have reason to remain optimistic. Now
that the project is no longer collecting textbooks or monetary donations,
the question remains: where do they go from here?
Hamdani said he
is currently trying to find out if the Iraqi embassy or any other organization
could help them ship the books before collecting more. In addition to
the idea to raise more textbooks, he thinks it is equally as important
to help the university by establishing a student and faculty exchange
The faculty in Baghdad
University are really anxious to come to the U.S. and get exposed to
the system. They want to be trained and they want to be participating
in the rebuilding of Iraq, he said. "They want to find out more about
the United States."
Once the security
situation stabilizes in the country, Hamdani hopes to establish a scholarship
program to encourage Iraqi students to study abroad. I would like to
thank all the people who participated in this project," Hamdani said.
"We will take it
one step at a time and hopefully in the future, we will accomplish all
of our goals."
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