By Army Spc. David Hodge
Special to American Forces Press Service
Aug. 4, 2008 - The Harat Elementary School in southern Baghdad's Rashid district reopened July 31 after two months of refurbishment. More than 1,000 Iraqi boys and girls from 7 to 12 years old and 60 teachers will start school in the refurbished building in September.
Among the improvements made to the school are air conditioners, interior and exterior paint, new doors, new chalkboards and a generator to supply the school with electricity.
"The school looks very good," said Ali, who has served as the school's principal for 25 years. "It is like a new house for the students. Now that we have a new-looking school, it will allow the students to work harder and better."
The funds for the project came from the Iraqi government, Army Lt. Col. Timothy Watson, a battalion commander with the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, said.
"This is one of the first schools to be refurbished in this area," Watson said. "We hope to work our way through all the schools."
The school refurbishment is a testament to the level of care for the neighborhood, Army Capt. Parsana Deoki, a company commander with the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, said. "My soldiers have taken the time to ensure work is done correctly and according to the scheduled scope of work," Deoki added.
The commander of the community's "Sons of Iraq" citizen security group, who also serves as a neighborhood councilman, said improved security made the project possible. "With the help of both coalition forces and the district council, this place has become a school again," Capt. Yousif Ibrahim said. "On behalf of our neighborhood, principal and teachers, we give special thanks for giving us the security to make it happen."
Ibrahim said efforts to improve security in his neighborhood have had recent success and that he hopes that success will lead to further improvements in his area.
"We have to give more attention to essential services and take the weapons and fighting away from here," Ibrahim said.
With members of the neighborhood and district councils and 60 teachers at his side, the school principal said he has plans to add five new classrooms with the hope of giving the children the best opportunity to learn.
(Army Spc. David Hodge serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 4th Infantry Division's, 1st Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)