News: Jaghatu elders visit FOB Ghazni, discuss educational needs
Story by 1st Lt. Katherine Roling
GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Eight Jaghatu District shura elders and the district sub-governor traveled to Forward Operating Base Ghazni Oct. 3 to speak with the Ghazni Provincial Reconstruction Team and Task Force White Eagle.
Their biggest priority and reason for travel was to discuss security and educational needs in their district and work on a plan with coalition forces to build and repair schools in Jaghatu District.
Two additional village elders from the district shura were expected but due to Taliban checkpoints, they were unable to travel safely with the others, explained Hassan Ali Hemati, District Council Chairman.
In fact, the forty members of the district shura take risks every time they gather to share ideas for their area, Hemati told the U.S. and Polish soldiers.
U.S. Navy Cmdr. Philip Kapusta, Ghazni PRT Commander from Valrico, Fla., thanked the elders and Jaghatu’s sub-governor, Mohammad Amin Yaqobi, for making the trip. The Ghazni PRT itself has had issues traveling to Jaghatu in the past. If the PRT wants to check on projects in that district, the team has to fly by air.
Kapusta explained why there were fewer projects in Jaghatu district than in other districts.
“It’s very difficult for us to get to Jaghatu. Every time we go through Khogyani, we end up fighting insurgents,” Kapusta told the elders.
Khogyani District lies between Ghazni and Jaghatu Districts and the insurgents have ambushed the PRT in Khogyani with improvised explosive devices, rocket propelled grenades, small arms fire and/or mortars during each visit. Due to the PRT’s training and experience, no one has been injured attempting to reach Jaghatu, but vehicles have been damaged. The attacks have disrupted the PRT and other coalition forces from reaching Jaghatu to start projects. The village elders understood the PRT’s predicament, but hoped to get help with schools in their area.
Hemati handed the PRT a list of eight schools which were prioritized into a list by district shura members. Jaghatu has a total of 31 schools for boys and girls, but the list showed the ones in most need of repair. Many of the schools do not have enough classrooms and children are studying outside.
“Winter is coming and the current schools need roof, equipment and window repairs. There are a lot of broken windows,” Hemati said.
The PRT Commander brought up some solutions.
“Our short-term solution would be to provide tents to keep the children out of the open air, and our long-term solution would be to build, but we can’t start that now with the cold weather coming in,” Kapusta told the elders. He let the men know that the U.S. and Polish forces would discuss the long-term solution and try to form a more substantive plan, but no promises could be made with winter coming.
Many areas in Ghazni are in the mountains, and snow buildup at high altitudes can become an issue in the province, making travel to some districts like Jaghatu, Jaghori and Nawur nearly impossible until spring arrives.
Kapusta did mention a practice that has worked in the past, and the elders felt it would work too.
“We have tried a couple of different things, and one thing that has worked in the past is where we provide and pay for the materials to be transported to the village and the villagers supply the labor and actually fix the buildings,” Kapusta said.
“For the current situation, that is a great idea and it could create jobs for the villagers,” Hemati said, and the others agreed.
The Ghazni PRT agreed to set up another meeting with the Jaghatu shura members and the sub-governor. Supporting education falls in the realm of reconstruction, and the team has built schools, donated educational supplies and created training programs throughout Ghazni province.
“Right now, Afghanistan has enough people who know how to shoot an AK-47 and an RPG. I hope that in the future we will have more people who are doctors and engineers,” Kapusta said.
Hemati and the elders appreciated the time with the PRT and emphasized the need for proper schools in Jaghatu.
“Education is very important. We want our kids to go to school and learn so that in the future, they can solve our problems,” Hemati said.