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News | Oct. 14, 2008

Iraqi government invests in education

By Sgt. 1st Class Christina Bhatti , 2nd Stryker Brigade

Soldiers and members of the embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team – Baghdad 5 join members of the Tarmiyah Qada Council stand in front of the newly opened Barada school in Tarmiyah, northwest of Baghdad, Oct. 9.
Soldiers and members of the embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team – Baghdad 5 join members of the Tarmiyah Qada Council stand in front of the newly opened Barada school in Tarmiyah, northwest of Baghdad, Oct. 9.

CAMP TAJI, Iraq (Oct. 14, 2008) – Education is a key investment for any country. To help make that investment a reality, the government of Iraq has taken the lead to ensure many battle damaged schools get the face lift they desperately need.

Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers from 1st Battalion 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, along with member of the embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team – Baghdad 5, toured three schools and helped open another in Tarmiyah, northwest of Baghdad, on Oct. 9.

The schools were in various stages of progress; from the very beginning phases to a completed building, which is ready for children to learn.

“There is nothing more fulfilling for me than to build a school for children,” said 1st Lt. Erik Peterson, a native of Littleton, Colo., and Civil Military Operations officer, 1st Bn. 14th Inf. Regt.

Peterson joined the school building projects in February and said the Tarmiyah Qada Council has put in a lot of work to make progress possible.

“They have been there every step of the way,” he said. “Everything that goes into construction was done by Iraqi engineers. All Americans did was handle a little bit of paperwork.”

Malcom Phelps, a native of Washington, D.C., and senior education advisor for the ePRT agreed.

“The Iraqi people are stepping up to their responsibilities,” he said. “It has been slow, but it is a growing process."

Progress on some of these schools has taken a long time and seen the rise and fall of violence in the area.

One of the schools toured, the Quadasiyah school, was in the middle of violence for years.

Renovations on the school began approximately three years ago, but were halted due to al-Qaida in Iraq taking over the building. When that happened progress stopped, Peterson said.

“Now that al-Qaida is basically gone from this area we can finish this project,” he said.

The school is scheduled for opening this year.

These four schools were the first schools visited by Phelps, when he arrived in April of last year.

“The contrast is tremendous,” he said about the Huda girl’s school. “The conditions for learning are better, but there is still a long way to go.”

Instead of the dirt floors and walls decorated with bullet holes and destruction, the school now has clean tiled floors and complete walls.

Though the building is near completion, the school still awaits furniture and books. This school is also scheduled for opening this year.

Education is a very important part of Iraqi culture, Phelps said. Years of war and extremism have forced people to concentrate on survival and little on education. As a result the school system became poor. Now that security has improved greatly, and the Iraqi people see progress they are taking a more active role.

“They see the progress being made and they want to be a part of it,” he said. “It’s symbolic as well as real progress they can see.”

Phelps, who considers education as an essential service, just like sewers and water said the GoI is getting back on track with their educational system and once again are putting emphasis on the benefits of schools that are conducive to learning.

“It keeps the children busy and provides the skilled workforce Iraq will need for their economy to grow.”

The Barada school is now open and ready to provide children in the area with the opportunity to learn.

The Soldiers and residents celebrated its opening and Phelps recognizes it as an example of the great work the Iraqi people are doing and step in the right direction.

“Capacity is what we are trying to achieve with the Iraqis. It is our end state as American forces to get to the point where the GoI can handle all the essential services of the people,” Peterson said. “We are getting closer and closer with each one of these projects.”