American Forces Press Service
March 30, 2009 - U.S. forces in Iraq increasingly are focused on educating Iraqis as they move toward returning Iraq to national sovereignty. In recent days, they have overseen job skills training of former "Sons of Iraq" civilian security group members and taken part in the reopening of two schools. "This is an excellent example of cooperation between coalition forces and our Iraqi counterparts," Christopher Crowley, mission director for the U.S. Agency for International Development said at the March 24 reopening of the Salman Pak Industrial School in Baghdad's Madain neighborhood.
Soldiers from the 1st Armored Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 6th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 2nd Battalion, attended the grand reopening of the school, which was made possible by $600,000 from USAID.
The school underwent major reconstruction after being virtually destroyed during insurgent-led attacks at the height of the capital city's sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007.
The school will offer eight courses available for up to 700 students to learn skills on sewing generator maintenance, welding, automotive repair, plumbing, electrical installation, masonry and carpentry. The school also received new equipment for a women's sewing room, a machine and metal working section and a computer room.
Iraq's Education Ministry will maintain the building grounds, hire and retain qualified teachers, and provide a full-time guard for the school.
"This school has a 30-year history and always represented a chance for learning and helping the youth of the Madain progress, but because of the violence in the area after the war, it stopped," Qassi Mrweh, Madain council chairman, said.
The improved security enabled contractors to rebuild the industrial school, Mrweh said.
In Baghdad's Adhamiyah neighborhood, former members of the Sons of Iraq, the civilian security group that worked alongside coalition and Iraqi forces to secure the country, are filling the classrooms at centers opened by the coalition to provide job training.
The city's four demobilization, demilitarization and reintegration centers teach courses in surveying, electricity, mechanics, generator repair and solar energy.
"We here in Adhamiyah are so happy coalition forces are supporting this project. The project helps the people of Adhamiyah by providing trade skills to local, unemployed people. After graduating the program, they continue to assist the people of Adhamiyah by providing a local work force," Mokdad Hassan, a local tribal support council member, said.
Under the program, each neighborhood may nominate 10 people for attendance to each cycle of the program. Each of the four DDR centers in the district of focuses on a different trade skill.
While attending a six-month class rotation, each student receives a monthly stipend of $350. At the end of the program, after passing the final exam, the students are awarded certificates of completion.
The program is designed to take selected Sons of Iraq members from their checkpoints to the classrooms. The goal is to provide them with essential, high-demand job skills, officials said.
In Iraq's northern city of Dahuk, 600 middle and high school students will benefit from a bigger and better school, thanks to the Gulf Region Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq.
Engineers with the division's Mosul Area Office participated recently in a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the opening of the new 12-room, $1.1 million Shindokha School. Local dignitaries at the ribbon cutting included the provincial governor, education, police and transition team officials.
The new school greatly reduces an overcrowding problem and allows for a longer school day while comfortably accommodating 600 students in grades 7 to 12.
The school is unique in that the entire curriculum is taught in English, according to school administrators. To prepare for the English curriculum, prospective teachers must undergo four months of intensive language training, with only 50 of the top prospects offered positions at the school.
Since 2005, USACE has managed school construction projects totaling $16.3 million in Iraq's Dahuk province. Those projects include 94 school renovations and 17 new school construction projects, according to Terry Samson, the USACE resident engineer in Dahuk.
Samson said the renovation and new school projects provide educational facilities for more than 10,000 students. These new schools also will give an economic boost to the area by offering 500 new jobs for teachers, administrators, janitorial and security personnel, said he added.
"These new educational institutions increase the scope and quality of education for Dahuk area students," Samson said. "This, in turn, will better prepare students for the future and improve their employability, lifestyle and the living conditions of all residents. It also demonstrates that the United States is a caring nation and is extremely interested in the educational process in Dahuk and in the future of the region."
(From Multinational Corps Iraq and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region Division North, news releases. Mike Scheck, of USACE's Gulf Region North district contributed to this report.)