Hawaii researchers to help Iraqi schools

HONOLULU – A team of University of Hawaii researchers is scheduled to visit Iraq next month to aid two of the country’s colleges.

The team is being awarded up to $11.1 million in federal grants to resurrect the University of Mosul and the University of Dobuk.

Mosul had most of its computers and hundreds of thousands of books stolen during the war.

“They really have gone downhill,” said Simar El-Swaify, the grant’s project director and chairman of the UH Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management. “They will be given the opportunity to grow with our help.”

The Hawaii group will focus on the agricultural sciences at the University of Mosul to help address Iraq’s food production shortages.

“With an economy primarily dominated by oil revenues, it is often overlooked that Iraq remains predominantly an agricultural nation,” El-Swaify said. “A clear need exists for reversing the well-documented decline in nutritional status, especially for children in Iraq.”

The grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development is renewable for two years and subsequent awards depend on the team’s progress.

The funds will go to research grants to a number of Mosul professors and also bring as many as 15 Iraqi graduate students to study at the University of Hawaii.

Catherine Chan-Halbrendt, associate dean of the UH college of tropical agriculture, said she is in charge of re-equipping the University of Mosul’s library.

She has been collaborating with a research librarian at the UH Hamilton Library and professors at the Iraqi institution to understand what resources an agriculture-oriented reference center should include.

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