Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Education: Soldiers help with first day of school

More than 100 Afghan children in the village of Oshay began their school year Feb. 10 with a visit by Afghan National Army commandos from 201st Kandak and coalition forces.

The soldiers showed their support for the school, teachers and students by providing notebooks, pens, pencils and other school supplies to the students. About 120 students arrived for the first day of classes at the Oshay school in the Shahidi Hasas district of Afghanistan's Oruzgan province. The village, near the banks of the Sakar River, is home to dozens of families who farm the nearby fields to make a living and provide for their families.

Before classes began, soldiers handed out red, black and green Afghan flags, which students happily waved above their heads. Soldiers also chatted with students and told them to listen to their teacher.

The headmaster of the school then addressed the assembled students and parents.

"You are the future of Afghanistan," the headmaster said. "If you study hard in school, one of you could be the future president of Afghanistan!"

Hearing those encouraging words, the children cheered and waved their flags and notebooks.

"All of the children seemed extremely happy to be there and excited to learn," a coalition soldier said.

The community also is supporting the opening of the Oshay school. "A local shop keeper, who was previously a high school teacher in Kandahar, stopped by to offer his support for the school," a coalition soldier said. "With the dramatic increase of students at the school, the headmaster hired him on the spot."

The Afghan government had been informing residents of the school opening by radio announcements. A coalition soldier noted that the announcements were obviously successful, since students and parents arrived from villages all over the Sakhar Rud Valley.

The Afghan and provincial government hope to open more schools in the area so students don't have to walk so far to attend classes, Army Capt. Vanessa R. Bowman, a coalition spokeswoman, said. "The Ministry of Education is working to improve educational opportunities for all children throughout Afghanistan," she added.

Source: Combined Joint Task Force 82 news release