By Pfc. Daniel M. Rangel, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
Dec. 28, 2007 - U.S. soldiers helped local Afghans celebrate the opening of the Aftabachi Girls' School in the Aftabachi Village here during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Dec. 26. In attendance were Kapisa Gov. Koeja Ablebacker and Army Capt. Jordan J. Berry, Kapisa province civil affairs team leader for the Bagram Provincial Reconstruction Team, who helped coordinate the $120,000 project with Mr. Miraga, an Afghan contractor who also was in attendance.
"We started six months ago," Miraga said. "The brick work was the hardest, and the concrete was hard work as well."
Local children had been looking forward to the opening of the school since the project's inception.
"They don't have enough schools around here, so this one's a big one for them. They come up to us, and they can't wait to get started," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Henry L. Rodriguez, 351st Civil Affairs, working with the Bagram PRT.
The new school will serve 620 students and employ 15 teachers who will teach a wide variety of subjects including mathematics, science, English and Arabic, Mr. Turyaly, one of the school's teachers, said.
Before the school opened, teachers conducted their classes outside with only the trees as protection from the elements.
"We are very happy right now that we have a building for the school," Turyaly said.
Berry emphasized it was the willingness of the people of Kapisa to work with coalition forces to bring about construction of the new school.
Security has allowed soldiers to do a lot of projects in the area, Berry said. "There are still people in Afghanistan who don't want to give us security, and they don't want development in their areas. So while they still want to fight, the children of Kapisa will be going to school. Ten years from now, those people who still want to fight will be working for those children. The children of Kapisa will be the future doctors, lawyers, teachers and politicians who run this country."
But it was not only the people's willingness that made construction of the school possible, Berry noted. Their contributions made the project possible as well.
"This land was donated from private individuals," Berry said. "That goes to show the emphasis the people in this area put on education. They give valuable farmland in a beautiful area."
The school will not be the last project. Berry noted plans are in the works for more projects in the spring.
"We look forward to doing more projects," Berry said. "We have a lot more projects for this area, and more development for the springtime, when it starts to get warmer. We look forward to working more with the people of Kapisa in the future."
(Army Pfc. Daniel M. Rangel serves with the 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)