Local organization strives to improve Afghan education system
March 11, 2010
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz.--Members of the Sierra Vista Rotary Club have raised money to purchase supplies for schools in Afghanistan, in hopes they will help improve the quality of their school system.
In October 2008, Cheryl Morgan, a contractor in the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence's Doctrine Division, deployed to Afghanistan for a counter narcotics mission.
Morgan, who remained in-country until November 2009, says part of their mission was to provide information to Afghan families on how to prevent themselves and their children from getting addicted to drugs.
"We reached out to various elements in society," which includes the education system, and through the educations system you can reach out to women, [such as] schoolgirls, schoolteachers and mothers," she said.
Morgan explained they target females because studies have shown that as the literacy rate and education level of young women and mothers grows, there's a proportionate decrease in the likelihood of the child to enter the world of terrorism.
The mission included meeting with teachers and schoolchildren, which exposed Morgan to the school environment. The first place she was stationed already had an established system. One of the Rotary Clubs in California was sending packages of pencils because schoolchildren didn't have access to pencils and paper.
"This was something they could do very easily and effectively through the Army Post Office system," Morgan noted.
The next location she was stationed at, as far as the school system was concerned, was very different than the first. As those on the special mission were spreading their message they noticed the "lucky students" were the ones who had a pencil and book to write in. "What people don't realize is how uneven the whole school system is in Afghanistan," Morgan explained, "the schools in major, urban areas usually receive supplies such as blackboards, chalk and desks, but the further you get away from those areas the less school supplies are provided to students and teachers.
This observation sparked a thought with Morgan, so in September 2009, she contacted Jerry Proctor, deputy to the USAICoE commanding general, and active member of the Sierra Vista Noontime Rotary Club. She asked if the club, which is a community service organization, would be interested sending school supplies to Afghan schools.
Proctor retold the story to the club's 90 members, and says Morgan's story struck a chord with them, to the point where they were able to raise $2,000 through their own contributions and initiative.
"[They] were very interested in reaching out and making an effect, at the grassroots-level, which is the children and the schoolteachers," Morgan noted.
One member of the Rotary Club, Les Orchekowsky, a local business person, contacted a company that gives away what Proctor refers to as "mess-up pencils," or pencils printed with companies' incorrect names on them.
Orchekowsky obtained about 3,000 pencils from this company and his employees sharpened the pencils during their breaks at work.
Glen Daniels, another proprietor, also donated three cases of solar calculators, or about 60 calculators.
The pencils and calculators, as well as a box filled with pencil sharpeners, were sent overseas last month.
Proctor says the Rotary members will use the money raised by the club to purchase supplies such as chalk and small chalkboards. They plan on purchasing and sending the supplies this month.
Morgan explained that those she worked with, and who are still in Afghanistan, have agreed to receive the boxes at the APO and will work with their Afghan counterparts to distribute the supplies to inaccessible areas.
For more information about the Sierra Vista Rotary Club, go to http://rotarysv.org.