LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Capt. Jason Merchant, the company commander of Company A, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Ironman from Dysart, Iowa, hands out cards Dec. (click for more)
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Spc. Lauren Hyman of Texarkana, Texas, armored vehicle driver for the 64th Military Police Company based at Combat Oupost Fortress, says hello to an (click for more)
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Taylor Gingrich, an infantry officer from Cedar Falls, Iowa, with Task Force Ironman, draws a smile from an Afghan boy as Gingrich (click for more)
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Spc. Brian Stowe, a human resources specialist from Elkmont, Ala., with Task Force Knighthawk, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, sings a ballad he wrote and (click for more)
PAKTYA, Afghanistan – Servicemembers defend the wall after an improvised explosive device detonates on Forward Operating Base Lightning Dec. 5. (click for more)
KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan and French military chiefs conduct a briefing before deployment during a security operation. Afghan National Security Forces and French Task Force Richelieu conducted Operation Montevideo (click for more)
PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Phil Compton, Doty, Wash., Panjshir PRT engineer, and PRT local Afghan engineer Abid Wardak check the structural integrity of the retaining (click for more)
GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – An Afghan family looks at their new family member after she was delivered by the Polish Army medical team at Forward Operating Base Warrior Jan. 3. (click for more)
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Soldiers from 2nd Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, maneuver through Sabari District during patrols to disrupt insurgent activity in the (click for more)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Sgt. Shawn Fouste, Decatur, Ill., noncommissioned officer in charge of the Freedom Restoration Center with the 455th Expeditionary Wing, Task Force Med, plays with (click for more)
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Until a couple of weeks ago, pupils here in Pole Qandahari used to learn in the open, sitting on the ground, in the dust, right under the scorching rays of the Afghan sun. Now, they are sitting behind school desks in a brand new school the Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team built for them.
Pole Qandahari is the name of a basic and secondary school run in Mohammed Agha District in Logar Province situated in eastern Afghanistan.
In some aspects, it is not much different from Czech schools; younger children dash around the yard shouting, while the elder discuss which teacher is tough and which is not.
This is where most of the similarities end. Here in Afghanistan, Pole Qandahari is regarded as an educational institution not exceeding the average. Poorly paid teachers seek to instruct children in reading, writing and arithmetic as well as advanced skills without enough textbooks or appropriate conditions.
“When I came here the first time, the children were learning out in the open, in front of the school building. They were sitting there wrapped in [wool] chadors, half of them shivering with cold,” said Klara Janotova, the civil engineer from the civil section of PRT.
Looking to improve
After only a couple of months, the Czech PRT committed itself to building a decent facility for students of Pole Qandahari.
The PRT constructed a new building with space for 16 classrooms, filled with about 500 students. They also repaired existing buildings.
”So, what we now have is a school made of bricks and concrete. And in the classrooms you can even find school desks. The main thing is that we never again will have to lean in the open,” says Abdul, a 16-year-old student. ”While winters tended to be freezing and I would sometimes get sick, in the summer heat, one simply could not concentrate on anything. The only thing I did appreciate were the breaks; an opportunity for us to go and get chilled at the schoolyard well,” Abdul said as he describes how things were prior reconstruction.
”Rather than building brand new schools ... we put effort into refurbishing the existing ones,” said Matyas Zrno from the civilian section of the Czech PRT. “When coming across kids learning on the floor, in packed classrooms or even in the open, we are certain such a school is worth repair. Children will continue going there and will be [in] an improved environment.”
New schools alleviates crowds
A week ago, reconstruction of the school in Darwish, Pol-e Alam District was completed. Even there, the situation for teachers and kids had been tough prior to the arrival of the Czech PRT.
”It used to look like a roadside market. Without any area fencing, the school had to tolerate people walking everywhere at their convenience,” said Nasim Jan Alimkhail, the school principal. “Apart from being unsafe, the school could easily have become the victim of a terrorist. Moreover, children had to learn in stuffed classrooms, on the floor with nowhere [else] to sit.”
At the moment, the Czech PRT is reconstructing one more school, this one in Azra, one of the most remote regions of Logar Province. This project is also close to completion. Once opened, the school desks waiting in the new building will be filled by 240 kids between 6 and 16 years old.
”In Afghan terms, the project proceeds relatively smoothly; the only thing we need to fine-tune is a couple of unfinished details,” added Janotova. “Though, at times, clemency needs to be shown pending construction site reviews. Quality is required at the same time, as we pay for it. Local companies that are typically hired to join in at least get a chance to learn a lot; in fact, it is a capacity building of some type or another.”
Mechanical and agriculture schools – the future of Logar
But it is not only the basic and high schools the Czechs are building in Logar.
In cooperation with the Logar government, the Czech PRT is involved in a project to build an agriculture and mechanical high school, one of the first of its type in Afghanistan. It will be the first specialized high school in Logar Province. The students will get a chance to learn advanced procedures in farming and new technologies. This is crucial to Logar, since 85 percent of people make their living in agriculture.
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NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces and Soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Task Force Bastogne, continued operations in the Sherzad District Jan. 8 clearing the village of Toto of insurgent fighters to reinforce a foundation of security in the area.
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