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Ashoor Primary School headmaster, Ahmad Freh Metlaq Khalaf, invites 2nd Marine Logistics Group commanding general, Brig. Gen. Juan G. Ayala, to tour the newly renovated school after a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Al Kabani, Iraq, Feb. 11. The renovations created more space for students and made it possible to accommodate an extra grade level at the school.

Photo by 2nd. Lt. Michele Perez

Small changes help promote education in Al Anbar

16 Feb 2009 | 2nd. Lt. Michele Perez

In a quaint village made up of small cement block structures, a crowd of local residents and U.S. service members gathered around a freshly installed gate leading into the Ashoor Primary School in Al Kabani, Iraq, Feb. 11.

The school, which provides education to approximately 115 students during the school year, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate its recent renovations that have added more space and facilities, thus allowing the school to accommodate more students and an extra grade level.

The people of Al Kabani communicated their needs to Marines and sailors of Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, who conducted patrols through the local towns. One of their main concerns was the lack of space at the school.  

This was one of 23 projects that Capt. Nathan L. Neihoff, Civil Affairs Officer for MWSS-373, has helped coordinate during the past several months. Neihoff acts as the liaison between Iraqi contractors and Coalition forces in order to build exactly what the people of the village need Additional projects ranged from installing water distribution systems to helping restore the local hospital’s infrastructure.

Once the schematic for the Ashoor School was approved by the headmaster and the funds were provided by Multi-National Forces-West, the construction was underway.

Major items that were worked on included the construction of two additional rooms with electrical wiring, a concrete wall, bathroom and shower, a water tank to run potable water into the school, as well as a fresh paint job, according to Neihoff.

“[The school] adds a focal point to the town and really ‘puts Kabani on the map,’” said Neihoff. “Kabani used to be a bit of a tourist attraction and they want to get some of that back.”

Ahmen Freh Metlaq Khalaf, headmaster for the Ashoor Primary School, was impressed with the outcome of the project.

“The school now is bigger,” Khalaf said. “Before [it was] crowded [and] only five classes. Finally, thank God, I have now six classes and everyone has the right spot.”

Before the added rooms, there was only room for students to attend first through fifth grade. If students wanted to advance to the sixth grade, they would have to attend a school that was far away from the village, and in most cases, students would have to quit school because their families had no means of transportation, added Khalaf.

The first class to benefit from the improvements to the school is scheduled to begin in the next few weeks. Thirteen-year-old Mohammed Nassir is looking forward to attending sixth grade with 29 of his classmates in the newly renovated school.

The construction of the school came as a pleasant surprise to Nassir and his family, who is the eldest of four children. He expressed how he was looking forward to studying his favorite subject.

“English is [my] favorite because I would [like] to speak with the American people,” Nassir said. “My parents also agree with me.”

For more information on the ongoing mission in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, visit www.iimefpublic.usmc.mil/iimeffwd.



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