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School Renovations Seek Bright Future for Iraq

By Claude D. McKinney
Special to American Forces Press Service

MOSUL, Iraq, Dec. 12, 2005 – Whether the key to a bright future for a country is to educate the children of the present will be tested in northern Iraq over the next generation, based on the work of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region North.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Students in the Harge Village School in northern Iraq enjoy upgraded facilities after renovations through the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund. Photo by Claude McKinney

(Click photo for screen-resolution image)

The 324 schools renovated in Iraq's seven northern provinces under the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund will benefit 42,000 students. All but nine of the schools are completed, and only one of those will not be finished by the end of January, officials said.

Officials also noted that under the Commanders Emergency Response Program, 450 classrooms have been added to an additional 84 schools, benefiting more than 16,000 students.

"More than 58,000 children have been affected," said Pradip Patel, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers program manager. "Students will be able to study in clean, painted classrooms, use new toilet facilities and new water fountains, and play in newly constructed playgrounds surrounded by perimeter walls. These renovated facilities will definitely motivate students and teachers to focus on classroom activities."

Renovations included adding new rooms to many of the existing buildings. A number of schools had security perimeter walls built around them. In all cases, the buildings were inspected and, where needed, roofs were repaired.

Other upgrades included electrical service, both wiring and lighting and, in some cases, generators to guarantee a stable power supply. Bathroom renovations included tile on the walls and floors, new fixtures, and both water supply and discharge. Each school received a fresh coat of paint inside and out. Many schools had playgrounds prepared.

"The children are happy; they really appreciate it," Patel said. "These renovated schools will help the students to get educated in conducive environments to become good citizens and in the future lead the country down a path of peace and prosperity for their future."

Six new schools are being built from the ground up. Each will have 12 classrooms to service 720 students. Several are in communities that had not had a school expansion for many decades, officials said.

Much of this tremendous success, officials said, is due to the cooperation and coordination between Mosul school administrators and contractors, and the ability to work within the reimbursement system to pay for work done.

In early July, $3 million was made available to renovate schools through the Commanders Emergency Relief Program. By the end of July, all those funds were obligated. Within the month, Mosul school administrators finalized design documents, generated scope of work requirements, compiled lists of building materials and found contractors capable of doing the work. Then, working closely with Patel, officials awarded all the contracts.

Because Iraq's economy is still a cash-based system, electronic funds transfer was not possible. So arrangements were made for the contractor to go to the Maneuver Command's finance office to receive payment in cash.

Patel said this was all possible because of the "professional way the school administrators took to their tasks."

(Claude McKinney is the public affairs officer at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region North.)

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division

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