By Norris Jones, US Army Corps of Engineers Public Affairs OfficeFebruary 14, 2007
BAGHDAD - A new high school for girls opened in northern Baghdad Feb. 5, courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The school is one of many projects focusing on education and reconstruction of Iraq's infrastructure.
Residents in north Baghdad hosted the official opening of the $470,000, 16-classroom girls' high school with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Ali Bunni, deputy chairman of the Qada Council, officiated the ceremony with local sheiks. His community needed a new school for years, long before Coalition Forces arrived. But it was the Coalition forces' generosity that made it happen, Bunni said.
"We cannot adequately express our happiness on this special occasion," he continued. "This is great news for the 40,000 residents in this area."
The school's headmistress pointed out that girls traveled long distances to attend high school and most stopped attending once they completed primary school.
"The construction of this building offers these girls an opportunity to complete their secondary education at which point they can qualify for better job opportunities or college," she noted.
Several students stepped up to read poems about the importance of education.
Students joined in a chant saying, "By working hard and education, we'll build this country."
Col. Debra M. Lewis, commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division's Central District, was asked to speak.
"Today is a very special day. Our future lies in education. You wanted this to happen and it has taken many days and many sacrifices. Edward Lewis once said, 'We define ourselves by the best that is in us, not the worst that has been done to us'," she said.
414th Civil Affairs Battalion enhanced the project through the Commander's Emergency Response Fund, purchasing 225 two-person desks, blackboards, chalk, computers, file cabinets, installation of a new concrete basketball court, and school supplies for all students.
"Local residents told me how important this school was to their community and I got numerous calls wanting to know when it would be finished," said Capt. Holly Hanson, a 414th team leader. "The local council got involved and provided us a list of what the teachers needed and we were happy to help."
Construction on the 1,500 square-meter two-story structure started a year ago for an enrollment of up to 450 students. Apart from the classrooms, the facility includes five faculty rooms, restrooms, generator, and a 130 square-meter guard house.
At the end of 2006, GRD has constructed or renovated 962 schools - providing quality learning environments for more than 500,000 students.