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Coalition Lays Cornerstones of Growth in Afghanistan

By Pfc. Cheryl Ransford
Special to American Forces Press Service

AIBAT KHILE, Afghanistan, July 29, 2004 – According to Islamic law, learning is the duty of all Muslims -- including women and girls.

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Army Lt. Col. James Anderson, Facility Engineer Team-17 commander, lays a cornerstone in the foundation of a school that was funded by Bagram Base Operations and the team. Photo by Pfc. Cheryl Ransford, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Now that the coalition is here to help the people of Afghanistan stabilize their country, getting girls back in school is one of the top priorities for the Afghan people.

Coalition officials are working with village elders in Aibat Khile to improve the learning environment for the girls who are starting to go back to school.

The groundbreaking ceremony for Aibat Khile Girls School was held July 15. "As the number of children in the village grows, so does the number of students," said Gen. Maulano, a local mujahedeen commander. "There will be 600 girls attending Aibat Khile Girls School when the construction is done."

The construction of the school is expected to take one month, said Maulano. "Although there are other girls' schools in the area, the number of girls going to school calls for expanding the current site of Aibat Khile Girls School," said Lt. Col. James Anderson, Facility Engineer Team-17 commander.

Currently, classes are being held in rooms with dirt floors and no lights, he said. Recognizing the need for improvements at the school, members of the coalition began planning the new school with the village elders and Zarar, the district governor, about a month and a half ago.

"The people in the village have been very helpful during the planning stages of the school," said Anderson. "By the time the groundbreaking was held, most of the supplies needed for the building of the school were already at the site."

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Zarar had Anderson, as well as two of the students who will be attending the school, lay the cornerstones in the foundation.

"This is a very great day for this area," said Zarar. "When the school is built, more of the children in the area will be able to learn."

Maulano was happy to see the cooperation between the coalition and the local community. "It is good for the people to see the relationship between the coalition and the elders, so they too will learn to trust the soldiers," he said. "The soldiers have made it possible for the school to be built and the girls to go to school and learn."

Maulano said he has a dream for his people and hopes that with the interaction and help of the coalition it will come true. "I want the girls to be educated, dedicated and able to live their own lives," said Maulano.

"Everyone has the right to do whatever they want in life," he continued. "The girls should have the right to be doctors, nurses, teachers, pilots or whatever else they might choose to be, just like the boys."

Before the Soviets and Taliban ruled, the women and girls lived very different lives, he said. And as improvements such as rebuilding schools continue to be made, the Afghan people may be able to regain that way of life once again.

"Without education a nation is nothing," said Maulano. "The girls are a part of this country and should have the right to add to the future of it by having the same education as the boys."

(Pfc. Cheryl Ransford is a member of the 17th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAfsana, a student at Aibat Khile Girls School, receives help as she lays a cornerstone in what will soon be her new schoolhouse. Photo by Pfc. Cheryl Ransford, USA  
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