By Spc. Jamie Vernon, 2nd BCT PAO, 1st Armd. Div., MND-BMarch 25, 2009
BAGHDAD - Locals blamed al-Qaeda in Iraq for destroying the Al-Khaladeen school during the days of sectarian violence that plagued Lutifiyah a few years ago. The AQI operatives did not want local children to attend the school, so they occupied the building, breaking and looting a place where future dreams are realized through education.
The Iraqi Army and Coalition forces eventually defeated AQI in the area and the insurgents fled or went into hiding.
With Lutifiyah no longer being a stronghold of AQI and the community reclaiming its school and its future, Multi-National Division- Baghdad Soldiers from Company A, 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment joined with students and school staff to mark the opening of the refurbished Al-Khaladeen school with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the village March 19.
Excited students stood in front of their school, and cheered after the ribbon was cut by Hady Mohsen, Representative for the Ministry of Education. The children then passed out candy, and shared a meal with Soldiers of 1-63 CAB to show their appreciation for everything that was done to make the major refurbishment of Al-Khaladeen School possible.
The celebration was held to mark the completion of the many repairs and additions that were made to Al-Khaladeen School, allowing the 400 children who attend the school a better and safer place to learn, according to Ama Hady a teacher at the school.
"The school was destroyed and it was not safe for a child to walk on this road. The roof would leak when it rained, the walls were caving in, there was trash everywhere, and no outside area for the children to play in. Now the school has been fixed, the roof is good, the trash is gone, the children are happy, and they like to come here more and more and they are safe," said Hady.
The school was repainted, received new roofs, a new bathroom, new tile for the floors, an addition to the building and a courtyard that was not there before the project was started. The school also had various other small repairs to the infrastructure.
"It's good to see for the future of Iraq, a focus on education for this generation," said Sgt.1st. Class Sesilio Astorga, Company A, 1-63 CAB, who hails from Rexburg, Idaho. "I was speaking to a father, he told me that years ago the area was very dangerous, and there were a lot of al-Qaeda relations going on between different tribes."
"For him to see that security is better and his children can focus on education so this country can progress is something good," added Astorga."I feel that the only way we can really affect this generation of Iraqi kids is for them to see that there are good intentions from their government, and also with us helping them out they will have a different outlook about their government and also about the American people,"
Sons of Iraq checkpoints are in place and Iraqi Army check points in the area provide additional security for the children of Al-Khaladeen School.
Renovations to the school began in early February and totaled $118,415 after everything was completed. The project was coordinated by 1-63 CAB and funded by the Commander's Emergency Response Program.
This is the second school renovation 1-63 CAB has been a part of in the Lutifiyah area, and they plan to do work with more schools in the future.
The Lutifiyah community which once lived in fear of AQI, now embraces education and a brighter future.