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Reporters on the Job

A STUDY IN CONTRASTS: The Monitor's Peter Ford says he has seen children study under difficult circumstances in many third-world countries. But rarely has he seen schools in such a pitiful state as they are in Iraq. He has been impressed, though, by teachers' dogged determination to do their job regardless of their surroundings.

"One primary school headmistress was holding a staff meeting in the middle of a building site - the school was being remodeled and she could hardly make herself heard over the hammering of nails and the scream of circular saws," Peter says. "But she was nonchalant about the presence of two armed men at the front door guarding against looters, and carried on, discussing with her teachers the details of school life: whether they needed stricter rules to stop children from coming late, and how they would find room in the timetable for new subjects that may be included in the post-Hussein curriculum."

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Peter noted that the headmistress had more dramatic problems, too, with parents fearful of sending the children to school because of kidnappers. "But there is not much she can do about that. She could only try to put her own house in order."

OLD VS. NEW: The Monitor's Robert Marquand, who traveled to China's Xinjiang Province, was surprised by the juxtaposition of a venerable mosque in Kashgar with a large plaza that is under construction. "To have just come out of a prayer meeting with these very somber men, who had been going there every day for all their lives, and then see an artist's rendering of the area, with most of the surroundings dramatically changed - it seemed there was little connection between the world these people inhabited and the one that was going to be built."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

Cultural snapshot

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