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CJTF-HOA aids in Ethiopian school construction

By U.S. Navy David-Michael Ross Petty Officer 1st Class, CJTF-HOA

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Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Navy Capt. Joseph Weston prepares to cut the ribbon during a dedication ceremony at Hurso Primary School. The construction of a new three-room school house helps improve the quality of education for the 1,200 students who attend the school.
Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Navy Capt. Joseph Weston prepares to cut the ribbon during a dedication ceremony at Hurso Primary School. (CJTF-HOA photo)

Feb. 27, 2008 — DIRE DAWA, Ethiopia (Feb. 26, 2008) — As a result of a construction project completed on behalf of Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, at a total cost of $42,000, Hurso Primary School officially opened a new three-room school building during a ceremony Feb. 21.

Local construction contractor Husen Hassen of Guryo-Samo General Contractors completed the Dire Dawa community school ahead of schedule, with the project being the result of the collaborative efforts of the Ethiopian government, Ministry of Education, national and local officials, the US Embassy, USAID and CJTF-HOA.

“The reason why it’s important for us to be here and heavily involved so far away from Djibouti is to help in continuing to build far-reaching relationships away from the base,” said US Navy Capt. Joseph Weston of CJTF-HOA. He explained that an important part of CJTF-HOA’s mission is to assist locals so that they can empower their own lives.

“Education is the key to the world. A good solid education gives people opportunities and really does help the human condition across the entire globe. This school is a significant contribution in helping to bring opportunity to the people here,” said Weston, a native of Houston, Texas.

Prior to the completion of the Hurso Primary School Project the school consisted of three structures; one structure containing two classrooms, a second structure with five classrooms and the principal’s office, and a third structure containing toilet facilities. With the limited number of classrooms available at the school, the first and fifth grade classrooms were overcrowded with more than 120 students in each room. Other classrooms had more than 80 students each and the eighth grade students held their instruction under a tree, because they did not have a classroom.

Due to space constraints and associated safety concerns, school administrators had to previously turn many students away.

“It’s amazing to see faces light up and see how excited community members are to see this project completed. The kids are very enthusiastic about the new educational opportunities made available to them,” said Weston.

“I talked to a few inside and we shared ideas about being able to do everything from being test-pilots to astronauts if they have the keys and the keys are an education,” he added.

The Hurso Primary School project serves as a cornerstone towards maintaining a strong relationship between the Government of Ethiopia, CJTF-HOA and a local populace vulnerable to extremism.

CJTF-HOA’s Team 15, A Company 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion leader, US Army Capt. Shane Rundgren, of Tonawanda, N.Y., said that improving conditions of the educational facilities for the children is not only important towards building popular support and a positive perception of the coalition presence in the area, but said he also believes the US presence provides a deterrent to extremist activities and also acts to deter recruitment from extremist groups.

“All of these communities are deeply concerned about the future of their children and they share an ultimate vision of increased education and societal improvement and we are here to support their goals,” said Rundgren in regards to the symbiotic nature of CJTF-HOA’s mission.

According to Hurso Primary School representative Mohammad Abdinur, the new school building stands as an example of CJTF-HOA’s long-term commitment to the region.

“We’ll never forget the Americans in our coming history. This is a great and golden opportunity for our kids and our community is grateful,” said Abdinur.

Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa works to prevent conflict, promote regional stability and protect coalition interests in east Africa and Yemen through humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, consequence management and civic action programs. This includes medical and veterinary care, school and medical clinic construction and water development projects.