By Army Spc. James Wilton
Task Force Red Bulls
PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (5/6/11) – Members of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team attended the grand opening ceremony of the Baba Ali Girls School in Dara District, Afghanistan, May 1.
The school can host more than 150 Afghan female students and is a part of a three-school complex which includes a boy’s school.
The Dara Community Development Council, a group of Afghans who address the needs of their community, proposed the school to their local government, but there was no money to fund the project.
Hearing this, the PRT decided to take on the endeavour.
“I am very excited and happy that the Panjshir PRT opened the Baba Ali Girls School in this remote district of the Panjshir valley,” said Abdul Matin Mubashe, a math and sciences teacher for the Baba Ali School, through an interpreter. “The young girls of the Dara District now have a place to study and learn.”
The PRT contracted a local village contractor, the Raz Tanha Construction, Road Building and Production Company, to build the 8-classroom school.
“We have an Afghan-first or Panjshir-first policy, if we can find someone capable of doing a project within that community, then we use them to do the work,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Joseph Blevins, the Panjshir PRT commander. “The communities really tie in with the PRTs.
“Our ability to get out and get around and talk to people, and the effectiveness of the government officials really allow us to get a lot more done in Panjshir.”
Keeping the money from projects like this in the community helps to rebuild and reinforce the infrastructure.
Education is also an important part of that rebuilding and reconstruction effort; it helps increase the knowledge and abilities of the future leaders and builders of Afghanistan, according to the province’s education director.
“Education is important to the children of Afghanistan, because they are the future builders of Afghanistan,” said Abdul Makim, the Panjshir Province education director, through an interpreter. “That is why I am trying to support the children of Panjshir Province to study and for education. Then they can help to improve the country and our future.”
He said the effort is most needed when it comes to educating the females of Afghanistan, as they are often overlooked.
“Education isn’t just important for Afghan society. It is important everywhere around the world, especially here in this very fundamentally religious society,” said Makim. “Female education is one thing that was heavily impacted especially during the war years, therefore, rebuilding female capacity here in Afghanistan is one of our big pushes.”
Makim said the PRT’s and Afghan government’s efforts are making great strides in the fight to rebuild this devastated country, and they go beyond just the construction of schools.
“We are also helping our teachers to learn and grow and become better teachers, through continued education and classes to help them educate our students in modern subjects,” said Makim. “These programs and others, both here and outside the country, will make them more knowledgeable and better teachers for the children of Afghanistan.”
Improving education of teachers as well as students, both male and female, puts Afghanistan on the right track toward a positive future, said Abdul Rahman Kabiri, the Panjshir deputy governor.
“Schools like this are the first step in the right direction for the people of Afghanistan, and the solution to a problem which is in the education system of Afghanistan,” said Kabiri.
“Projects like this school are very important because the children are the foundation of a society, and in America we say the children are our future,” said Blevins. “So as long as Americans are welcome in Afghanistan and Panjshir as friends and guests, we will work with you shoulder-by-shoulder, hand-in-hand to do projects like this.”
In an uncertain future, hope is what drives a people, and the people of Panjshir have one hope and one request for their children.
“I make this request and hope for the children of Afghanistan, that they will study more and harder so they can improve their country because they are the future builders of Afghanistan and offer a new generation for the community,” said Makim.