MARJAH DISTRICT, HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
MARJAH DISTRICT, Helmand province, Afghanistan — The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan opened several schools within the district recently, intent on educating tomorrow’s future for the nation.
The residents of Marjah celebrated more than six school openings in the past month. Government representatives, local residents, students and Marines with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, gathered on several occasions to commemorate opening day ceremonies at various locations.
Students from 5 to 17 years of age lined up for the opening ceremony of the Balakino School located in central Marjah. A number of GIRoA representatives spoke to the crowd about the importance of security, education, and the future of Afghanistan at this particular ceremony.
“Before, the people were under the pressure of the insurgency, so they would not come to school. (Teachers) could not do their jobs properly because of the insurgents,” said Muhammad Dawood, the headmaster of one of the recently opened schools. “It is very important that the coalition forces are providing security; now the kids are coming to the schools.”
Educational opportunities were not widely available in Marjah under the negative insurgent influence formerly in the area, according to Dawood. He said with the increased security, local residents are not scared to send there children to school now.
“A little over a year ago, this area was controlled by the insurgents, and none of these schools were open,” said 1st Lt. Joe Falvey, a Plymouth, Mich., native and a platoon commander with Kilo Company, 3/6. “It is only since Afghan National Security Force (personnel) and the government have gained influence here that the schools have been reopened. It’s obviously having a really strong affect on the people, because 600 students are here at Balakino. [There are] 200, 300 and 400 at a lot of the other schools. There was zero when the insurgents were here.”
Areas like Marjah have progressed to the point now where the government is ready to run things, and ANSF is ready to provide security, added Falvey, who is Kilo Company’s GIRoA liaison. Falvey works with local government representatives to coordinate any Marine Corps assistance they need for development projects, like the school openings, within the company’s area of responsibility.
Headmasters in Marjah said they expect more students to begin attending schools as ANSF expands its presence in the area. The schools that recently opened have seen an influx of eager students who are ready to learn.
“We are teaching Pashto and Dari up to third grade,” said Dawood, who has been an educator for 14 years. “In sixth grade, they will start learning Arabic, English and subjects like this.”
Language is not the only curriculum taught in these Marjah schools. There is a variety of subjects being offered to students, to include mathematics, chemistry and biology, according to Dawood.
Falvey said the new school openings in Kilo Company’s area will give more than 1,200 youngsters the opportunity to gain an education.
Most of the schools in central Marjah are hard structure buildings, while other schools are held in temporary tent structures until plans can be finalized to construct permanent buildings.
Local elders have been instrumental in the planning process of the school openings. They expressed the need for schools in the area and have worked with headmasters to ensure student registration. Local ANSF leaders are large contributors in this process also, ensuring the elders and headmasters are working through the government.
“The goal of GIRoA is to get schools to work with the ministry of education. The ministry of education is able to pay the teachers, provide supplies, and standardize the curriculum,” said Falvey, a 2009 graduate of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. “The headmasters are working to improve their schools, and the key to that is working with the ministry of education.”
Elders in other areas are interested in starting new schools as well, and GIRoA plans to open several more schools within the area in the near future, according to Falvey.
Editor’s note: Third Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.
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This work, Marjah district opens schools, develops future generations, by SSgt Earnest J. Barnes, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.