Baghdad Schools Open, but Students Don't Show

Iraq teachers reported to work in scattered schools across the Iraqi capital Saturday but found no students to instruct as administrators, wary of continuing lawlessness, awaited orders from a government that doesn't yet exist.

Many schools in Baghdad (search) had said they would resume classes Saturday, but they remained shuttered. On the gate of the Dijla Secondary School for Girls, a sign was posted instructing "all staff" to report to work beginning last Sunday. The gate was padlocked.

"People won't send their children to school without hearing some kind of instruction in the media," said Abdul Zahra Fadel, assistant headmaster at the Mohammed Dura Middle School.

With no television or newspapers, that alone was a tall task.

Iraq has no operating Education Ministry to order classes resumed. The interim American in charge, retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner (search), has yet to appoint a government to run the country. Elections are months, if not more than a year, away.

"We can't start classes until we get the directive from the Education Ministry," Fadel said. "We will wait for instructions from Garner. As far as the teaching staff, we are here just waiting."

Elsewhere in Iraq, the situation was somewhat better. About 100 schools opened in the southern city of Kut on Saturday, U.S. Marine Col. Ron Johnson (search) said.

In the northern city of Mosul, administrators of the Hiteen elementary boys' school broadcast a television message telling students to show up for class Saturday. Only about 15 of the school's 583 students did.

"They are afraid because of the bad circumstances we face," said English teacher Wafaa Mahmoud. "There is no security in the streets."

Only five of the school's 13 teachers showed up for work. Headmaster Hamed Ahmed said since they haven't been paid in weeks many can't afford a taxi.

Most other schools in Mosul remained closed.

The school situation reflects the wider problems faced by Iraq as it tries to move past war and resume daily routines.

Traffic was snarled throughout Baghdad on Saturday and many intersections took more than 30 minutes to negotiate. Iraqi policemen, newly returned to work, looked on lazily as groups of citizens formed to wave traffic through.

"I've never seen traffic like this. There are no police. Traffic lights don't work," said Adel Ali, a 40-year-old military physical education teacher, packed with four other men in a battered Chevrolet Malibu in the choking dust and heat.

"People are leaving their houses because they think they are safe," he said. "If this continues, it will only get worse."

For any city recovering from war, the holding of classes is a harbinger of routine returning. In Baghdad, beyond operational issues, many schools face serious physical problems. A missile still pokes out of the wall of one, and scores of others have been looted and burned.

"All our equipment has been stolen. Some parts of the building have been burned. It's unbearable," said Ahmed Said, 51, head of the postgraduate Iraqi Commission for Computers and Informatics. "It will take three to four months to get it back in order."

He said more than 800 computers were looted from the school as well as the institute's four generators and all its air conditioners.

"We have over 400 students but the classrooms aren't ready to receive them," Said said. "Besides, it's not safe. Thieves could come back and burn it again."

Many shops reopened their doors despite few customers, if for no other reason than storeowners were tired of sitting at home.

"People like to live," Salam al-Aadhami, the 41-year-old cashier who reopened the City Moon Supermarket in Baghdad's Zayuna neighborhood.

Behind him were a few bottles of shampoo. Jars of candies sat on the counter. But in the main part of the supermarket, all shelves were empty.