- Posted June 27, 2009 by
Panjshir Province, Afghanistan
Provincial Reconstruction Team Panjshir, Afghan leaders celebrate girls’ school opening
By Air Force Capt. Stacie N. Shafran
Provincial Reconstruction Team Panjshir Public Affairs
Haish Saidqi Girls’ School in Panjshir province resounded with laughter of children for the first time, June 23.
As the little girls milled about their newly constructed eight-classroom school in Rokha District, their faces beamed with excitement as teachers scrawled the Dari alphabet across freshly blackened chalkboards.
The Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team demonstrated its commitment to education by joining Haji Bahlol, Panjshir’s governor, Zulami Saheen, the province’s director of education, and other distinguished guests to celebrate the school’s grand opening.
Governor Bahlol dedicated the school-opening ceremony in honor of Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Stratton, the PRT’s commander who was killed May 26 when a suicide bomber detonated an IED against the PRT’s convoy.
The PRT-funded school, which cost $145,000, has been under construction since last July. The residents of Rokha and the nearby villages of Shast, Pai Chinar and Molakhel formally petitioned for the school. Over the course of the academic year, more than 500 primary-school age girls will attend class here, many going to school for the first time.
Although Haish Saidqi is designated as a girls’ school, a small number of boys will attend as well. In this area of Panjshir, boys and girls can attend class together until third grade. After that, classrooms must be separated by gender.
“This school means a lot to the future of these girls,” said Saheen, through an interpreter. “They used to study in destroyed buildings and temporary facilities. Now they have things like good desks and blackboards.”
According to the Afghan Ministry of Education, there are 1.7 million girls studying in primary schools across the country. Only 30 percent of girls reach the fifth grade, compared to 56 percent for boys.
Air Force 1st Lt. Dustin Koslowsky, a PRT engineer, has spent the past nine months overseeing the Afghan contractor and construction workers building the school. “When I initially volunteered for this assignment I was looking forward to my first opportunity to manage construction; to see this project completed and put into use so quickly is exciting and satisfying. The contractor has worked hard and I am proud to have been a part of this project,” he said.
Following the ceremony, the PRT signed responsibility for the school over to the director of education.
The PRT is facilitating 12 education projects worth $2.8 million, including nine schools, two dormitories and one multi-purpose building which will be used as a library and laboratory.
Under the Taliban regime all of Afghanistan’s schools were religious and girls were banned from attending. The revival of Afghanistan’s education system, especially the return of girls to schools, is considered to be one of the biggest accomplishments of the Afghan government since 2001.
First graders at the newly-opened PRT Panjshir-funded Haish Saidqi Girls’ School answer questions about what they want to be when they grow up. Although officially a girls’ school, a small number of boys attend as well. The school opened June 23 and will serve more than 500 girls from nearby villages in Panjshir’s Rokha District, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Stacie N. Shafran)
During the grand opening of the Haish Saidqi Girls’ School, Army Lt. Col. Steve Lancaster, Provincial Reconstruction Team commander, helped the Afghan provincial leadership cut the official ribbon, symbolizing the school’s completion. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Stacie N. Shafran)
For many first graders at the newly opened eight-classroom Haish Saidqi Girls’ School, this is their first time to receive formal education. According to the Afghan Ministry of Education, there are 1.7 million girls studying in primary schools across the country. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Stacie N. Shafran)