12 April 2009

Team Opens Six New Schools for Afghan Children

A stream of elders waited their turn to thank the provincial reconstruction team and its government partners here (Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan) for bringing the boys and girls of Samer Khil village the two bright-yellow school buildings that stood behind them.

The scene in the small village of Behsood District on April 7 is becoming familiar for Nangarhar PRT members, who joined the village elders and government officials to celebrate the opening of the school during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Samer Khil Boys and Girls School, completed in about nine months, was a $200,000 project funded by the PRT. It marked the sixth school the PRT has finished in the past two months in three different districts.

"In order to become a prosperous country once again, we must have education and schools to achieve our goals," said Mohammed Khan, a village elder for Samer Khil. "Because of the PRT's help, this dream is moving quickly."

In addition to the recent completion of the six schools, the PRT is working to bring 18 new schools to seven districts in Nangarhar. The team also has proposed about 40 new school buildings to be built in the next year.

While the new schools bring a direct benefit to the students, who will now be able to receive their education out of sometimes-harsh weather, village elders said the new facilities help the entire village.

"The people of Samer Khil have waited for this day for a long time," said Nazar Mohammed Nazari, the school's headmaster. "This will allow the students to come indoors to learn. We are proud of this day, and it is a great day for all the people of Samer Khil."

Khan agreed the school will help the entire village.

"We all have to be proud and take responsibility for this building," he said. "Teachers have to be responsible for bringing up their students, and we all have to work hard to protect this school."

Having Afghans recognize and take responsibility for the security of new buildings is a sign of the progress being made here, said Ron Ashley, an Army Corps of Engineers engineer who works with the PRT. It also provides a safe setting to educate Afghanistan's future.

"Our goal is to help the children of Afghanistan learn as much as possible by giving them the best schools possible," Ashley, a native of Dayton, Wash., said. "We hope these new schools will help educate the children of Afghanistan for years to come and help them make the big leap forward they deserve."

(author Air Force Capt. Dustin Hart serves in the Nangarhar Provincial Reconstruction Team public affairs office.)
Photo: Ron Ashley, an Army Corps of Engineers engineer with the provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, speaks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Samer Khil School in Behsood District, April 7, 2009. U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Dustin Hart
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