BAGHDAD (AFP) - Kassim used to teach geography in the morning and spend afternoons repairing shoes in the streets of the central Iraqi town of Azizyah. Those days are over.
Iraq's 300,000 teachers have seen vast changes since the regime of Saddam Hussein fell in April 2003, and Kassim can now feed his four children without having to cobble a living together.
From an average monthly salary of 10,000 dinars (around two-three dollars at the time) plus food subsidies, they can now earn 300,000-400,000 (200-270 dollars).
The result, says 40-year-old English teacher Jawad Mizhr, is that they can now do their job.
Such is the difference that retired teachers want their old jobs back, if only for a year or two so they can qualify for vastly improved pensions.
Within the ministry, the atmosphere is much better and teachers can now speak their minds, but there is a surplus of specialised teachers in areas like English and science in some schools and not enough in others, he said.
Some materials were also now out of date. "We're still using old textbooks, we've just removed the pictures of Saddam."
Sounds like the Iraqi people are more positive about their future than the anti-war Left is...
It should be noted that Iraq's educational system has at least one distinct advantage over the American system: They don't have an NEA!
Now back to your regularly-scheduled hand-wringing over "Koran abuse"...