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New School to Offer Modern-day Facilities Blended With Tradition

American Forces Press Service

BASRA, Iraq, March 11, 2009 – Iraqi children soon will benefit from a traditional-style school built partially out of reeds to reflect their marsh Arab culture in Rota village, a remote marshland northeast of Qurna, Iraq.

An Iraqi company is slated to build the school, which will serve 150 to 300 students from 6 to 12 years old. The contract was signed March 8 at the Basra Contingency Operating Base here.

"What is unique about this project is that the school will have all the facilities for a modern-day education, but it addresses the traditional heritage of the marsh Arabs within that area," Peter Hunt, a project officer, said. "The school will be built in part from reeds that come from the marshes, harvested by the marsh Arabs, and will be woven into this school."

The school’s basic design is patterned after the “mudhif,” a large communal house made of reeds, paid for and maintained by a local sheik for use by guests or as a gathering place. The school will have a main hall, four classrooms, a washing area with 10 common toilets, two sinks, a single male and a single female toilet and a couple of general-purpose rooms. There also is land reserved nearby for a children's playing area.

"The project is the result of a coordinated effort between coalition forces and the Iraqi army assessing needs with local sheiks who asked for a school," Navy Capt. Robert Lansden, chief of civil military operations for Multinational Division Southeast, said.

The building is funded by the Iraqi Commander's Emergency Response Program and scheduled to be completed at the end of May.

"I hope it will be one of many buildings that will reflect the noble culture of the marsh Arabs," Hunt said.

(From a Multinational Division Southeast news release.)

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