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RAMADI, Iraq (August 15, 2008) – (center) Khalid Abdul Salam, an assistant to the Director General of Schools and (left) Lt. Col. Brett A. Bourne, the commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, cut a ribbon signaling the reopening of the Industrial High School August 13. The Industrial High School in Ramadi was the latest school to open in the city. "It’s great that the city was able to get this school opened up,” said Khalid Abdul Salam; an assistant to the Director General of Schools. “The school is going to be a wonderful institution not only for the students but for all of Ramadi. As the youth of the city continue to earn an education, they will assist the city and the province in making their country prosperous.” (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Casey Jones) (RELEASED)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Casey Jones

Educating tomorrow’s leaders

15 Aug 2008 | Lance Cpl. Casey Jones

RAMADI, Iraq (August 15, 2008) – In most parts of the world a school house stands as a symbol—a symbol of education, of growth, of innocence.

But in al-Anbar Province, Iraq, school houses had been used early in the war as a domicile for malicious acts conducted by insurgents against Coalition forces, not for educating the future leaders of tomorrow.  

In a November 2006 Washington Post article, Abdul Sattar Jawad, the former dean of the College of Arts at Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, wrote, “The mass (violence in the country) underscores the chilling fact that the most dangerous place in Iraq is not the mosque, the marketplace or the military checkpoint, but the classroom.”

In sharp contrast to Jawad’s dim description of the country, the region is now rebuilding. Restorations and reopening of schools are taking place daily in Iraq, with Ramadi seemingly leading the way.

The Industrial High School in Ramadi was the latest school to open in the city.

“It’s great that the city was able to get this school opened up,” said Khalid Abdul Salam, an assistant to the Director General of Schools. “The school is going to be a wonderful institution not only for the students, but for all of Ramadi. As the youth of the city continue to earn an education, they will assist the city and the province in making their country prosperous.”

The structure required heavy renovations as it was badly damaged during the war.

“The building was just a shell,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Eric Jett, a team leader with Civil Affairs Detachment 2, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1. “All of the bullet holes in the walls from the fighting were patched up along with several other refurbishments.  The building required almost floor-to-ceiling reconstruction.”

The combined efforts of Civil Affairs Detachment 2, the International Relief and Development team and the Director General of Schools made the renovations possible.

The project was a high priority for the city as the school will serve as an institution for young males seeking to learn valuable trades. Educators there will teach the students construction and electrical work, along with a variety of other skills.

“Education is the key to any society’s advancement,” Jett said. “This school will allow young people from all across al-Anbar to come and learn a trade.  It also has the added benefit of getting the young males off the streets and giving them something productive to do. This school will give them opportunity to become functioning members of society.”

The school opened just in time for the return of fall classes.

“School starts in September here so the timing was right on to prepare the students and staff for the new school season,” Jett said. “Also the security situation in the region is much safer now compared to previous years. This was a great opportunity to complete the project and get another school opened up in the city.”

According to Salam, the school’s faculty and students are thrilled about the reopening.

“Everyone I’ve talked to about this school has expressed tremendous excitement and enthusiasm,” he said. “The parents are excited about the new possibilities their children will have and the students are excited about their future and their increased chances to be successful.”