News: Small school gets big addition
Story by Spc. Justin A. Naylor
FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq— More than 300 primary school-age students attend the small school in the village of Sayyidnajm in Kirkuk province, Iraq, and as many as 100 of them were crowded in the rear of classrooms because of a lack of space.
Now through to a contract between Sheik Muhammed Al-Shaheen, a local businessman, and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, two additional classrooms were added to the school in time for the new school year.
The contract led to the hiring of some 500 men in the sheik's local area, according to Capt. Aziz Noorali, a Pensacola, Fla., native and Soldier with the human terrain team on Forward Operating Base Warrior, Kirkuk, Iraq. The sheikh uses the workforce to complete projects in his local area at his own discretion. While they were participating in the construction projects, they were also going through on-the-job training administered by the Mohammed.
The Sayyidnajm school is in one of Sheikh Muhammed's villages, and he thought it would was in need of some renovation, explained Noorali.
"[Muhammed] said 'give me the supplies to build it, and I will do it,'" said Noorali. "All we did was supply the material - everything else was done by an Iraqi."
Muhammed is the manager of the Civil Service Corps in his community. The CSC, an Iraqi program patterned after a U.S. depression-era job program known as the Civilian Conservation Corps, is designed to put young men back to work, according to Lt. Col. Hugh McNeely, deputy commander of 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div.
According to Maj. Chris Tande of Fort Lewis, Wash., and the Joint Regional Contracting Command, Muhammed received a one-year contract worth $4.2 million as part of a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program to find employment for former Sons of Iraq who did not integrate into the Iraqi police or Iraqi army. The program goal is to give back to the community by providing employment and job training for people who can use those skills in and around southwestern Kirkuk province.
The workers who expanded the school in Sayyidnajm have also completed projects on culverts, water canals, soccer fields and other school renovations over the past year, according to Tande.
Besides providing work for laborers in the area, and giving them a chance to get some real-world skills, the project is also a boon to the local education system.
"It's a lot better right now than it was," said Abd-Al-Rahman Hawas, a local villager. "It looks a lot better. These classrooms will really help out a lot."
"These types of projects provide a tool for communities to build upon," said Capt. Todd Fauchier, a Satellite Beach, Fla., native and the civil affairs liaison to McNeely. "Education is a building block of commerce. If projects of these sorts stimulate a desire for youth and community to excel and grow, then the project has accomplished its mission."
The school is still in need of a few things, though.
"We need more desks and chalkboards," said Abd-Al-Rahman. "These are very, very important."
According to Noorali, organizations within the government of Iraq will most likely be furnishing the new classrooms with the needed supplies.