By Army Sgt. 1st Class Christina Bhatti
Special to American Forces Press Service
Dec. 31, 2008 - Iraqi officials and U.S. soldiers celebrated the completion of renovations on a primary school with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Dec. 29 in Mushada, northwest of Baghdad. About $90,000 from the Iraqi Commander's Emergency Response Program funded improvements to the existing structure of the Al Gil Al Jadeed Primary School, said Army 1st Lt. Jesse Ozbat, fire support officer assigned to the 25th Infantry Division's Company C, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
Normally, about 600 students attend the school, but that amount has doubled recently. Students are crammed into classrooms, and overwhelmed teachers are doing their best to handle the increased student load, officials said.
Two other schools once were open in the area, but terrorists destroyed both schools years ago. The Al Gil Al Jadeed Primary School was spared from the brunt of the violence and needed only minor repairs compared to the other structures.
"Until the other two schools in the area are rebuilt and fixed, children will have to go to this one school," Ozbat, a Prince George, Va., native said.
Though repairs are under way on the other schools, Ali Janabi, Mushada City Council member, said he has bigger plans for the future of the Al Gil Al Jadeed Primary School.
"I would like to see this school grow," he said. "One day, I would like to see this place large enough to be considered a secondary school."
Janabi said he and the other city council members take pride in this school because "reading and writing are the foundations of a strong future."
"This school is the beginnings of strong foundations for many students," he said.
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Christina Bhatti serves with 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.)