American Forces Press Service
Oct. 22, 2008 - Afghan children are benefiting and thriving thanks to sustained efforts by a U.S. task force and a program that is helping to expand and improve their schools. A new addition to a Kabul school was opened over the weekend in a ceremony that included Afghan officials, school faculty and U.S. military officials, as well as the local contractors who completed the work.
"This is the greatest day of my life. I feel as though I am the mother of all these children," said Rabia Abdullah, principal of the Tajwar Sultana Girls School. "We used to teach them in tents, and now we have a school."
The school is located within the Afghan capital's Police District 4 in a village known as Kololah Pushta. More than 4,000 students, mostly girls, attend classes there in three shifts each day. The curriculum includes primary school in the morning, high school in the midday and middle school in the afternoon.
Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix, based at Camp Phoenix here, has been investing U.S. funds in Afghan school and community construction and rehabilitation projects through the Commanders Emergency Response Program as part of its mission to support the government of Afghanistan and its people.
The task force's primary mission is to train and mentor the Afghan army and Police, but it also supports efforts to build infrastructure and communities as part of the larger effort to assist Afghanistan.
With an investment of $185,000 through CERP and under the task force's supervision, Afghan contractors built a new 10-classroom school that opened in April. The Afghan Education Ministry coordinated with the construction plan and assisted with the design.
Additional projects to add a new story with 10 more classrooms at a cost of $155,000 and to renovate an older building at a cost of $58,000 were completed last month.
Previously, many classes were held outside or under tents because an existing structure built almost 30 years ago was in poor condition and there was not enough space to meet students' needs.
The faculty includes 120 teachers, all of whom have been trained at one of the Education Ministry's training centers. Teachers earn 4,000 to 6,000 afghanis per month, which equates to about $100 to $140.
In all, the projects have resulted in the construction of 20 new classrooms and the renovation of 30 more. While the student population has grown significantly since the fall of the Taliban, the students-per-classroom number at Tajwar Sultana has dropped from 70 to about 35 – the Education Ministry's recommended maximum.
The school now is positioned to expand its curriculum for computer and science programs. "Education is the future of our country," said Najibullah Kamran, director of education for the city of Kabul.
"When I first came to Afghanistan I did not know what I would focus my time on," said Lt. Col. Michael Hoblin, a New York army National Guard officer serving as the director of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix's civil-military operations office.
"After my first school opening, I realized education was the key to progress. How can Afghanistan have a bright future if the children are not educated?" he said. "We have built or started construction on 47 schools throughout Afghanistan. If you look into the eyes of these children, you can see hope. These kids need and deserve our help. There is progress here."
(From a Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix news release.)