By Air Force Capt. Dustin Hart
Special to American Forces Press Service
May 15, 2009 - Villagers in this remote area along the Pakistan border celebrated the recent opening of a school for boys and girls, as well as other coalition improvements, and vowed to protect it from insurgents. The Nangarhar Provincial Reconstruction Team joined provincial government officials and the people of a rural village in the Dara-Noor district to celebrate the May 12 completion of the school.
Local officials expressed their happiness with the completion of the school because of the benefits it will offer the people of Safer Kala village.
"This is a proud moment for everyone here because even in this remote area, where no school existed before, the government, through the help of the [International Security Assistance Forces,] was able to provide a school building for the children to be educated," said Mohammad Ibrahim, Nangarhar province deputy director of education.
The school, which cost $178,000, took less than a year to complete and includes two school buildings, two restrooms, and two wells.
Village elders assured the government and PRT that the school would be protected from outside threats.
"We have requested the support from all the people here to take care and protect this school," an elder said during the ceremony. "This school will bring light to the people here and the teachers are giving a bright future to the students. This is making a better life for this village.
"If the insurgents could see the Muslims in this area that are working hard for a better future for their children, they could see what true Islam is about," the elder added.
In addition to the school, the PRT also is funding a flood wall project. The $50,000 project will protect the school and village from flooding by a nearby river. The contractor also provided a wall separating the school from a passing road to protect students from road hazards.
The PRT also recently received approval to construct a footbridge over the river to help more students access the school.
Due to the rural, mountainous location of the village and a nearby river that is prone to flooding, the construction experienced difficulties.
"Anyone involved with construction knows all projects will have some problems," Army 2nd Lt. Steve Klenke, a PRT engineer from Detroit, said. "This project was no different. We are able to stand in front of this completed school thanks to the diligence and patience of the people of this village, district officials and the provincial government. I am happy to be a part of that team and play a small role in helping bring education to your children."
Education remains a top priority for the Nangarhar PRT. The school in Safer Kala village was one of 21 schools currently being constructed by the PRT. The PRT has recently completed five schools in five districts and has proposed an additional 39 projects. Overall, the PRT is teamed with the Nangarhar provincial government in working more than 52 active projects worth more than $70 million.
(Air Force Capt. Dustin Hart serves with the Nangarhar Provincial Reconstruction Team, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, public affairs office).