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A Marine hands out school supplies to female Iraqi students Oct. 30, 2006. Civil Affairs Team 3, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines, in direct support of Task Force 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 1, is currently overseeing a project in the southwest region of Fallujah to build a secondary school for young women. A two-story, 12-classroom school is being built with the help of Iraqi contractors and the Ministry of Education. (Official U.S. Marines Corps photo by Cpl. Stephen McGinnis) (RELEASED)

Photo by Cpl. Stephen McGinnis

New school opens doors for Fallujah girls

17 Sep 2008 | Cpl. Chris Lyttle

FALLUJAH, Iraq (Sept. 17, 2008) – Civil Affairs Team 3, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines, in direct support of Task Force 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, is overseeing a project to build a secondary school for young women in the Albu Issa tribal region of Fallujah.

1st Lt. Michael Robison, team leader, Civil Affairs Team 3, who is responsible for managing the project, said the school is an important step toward educating Iraq’s women.

 “Girls graduate the sixth grade, but that is where their education stops,” said Robison. “With their education system being similar to ours (in the United States), the girls are learning basic reading, writing and arithmetic. In terms of getting the education we get in high and junior high school, such as advanced science or mathematics, history and a little more sophisticated level of literature, the girls do not have this. The girls have all the education needed to be functionally literate, but they don’t have enough to go on and pursue careers.”

While secondary schools for girls do exist in the inner boundary of Fallujah, one was needed for girls who live away from the dense populace.

Sheik Khamis Aifan Al Issawi, the prominent local tribal leader of Albu Issa, proposed the project to Coalition forces and Iraq’s Ministry of Education, who approved a two-story, 12-classroom building to house the students.

The Ministry of Education contributed the design plan for the school and will provide the supplies and hire the staff once the building is completed.

The new building will also help widen the local government’s focus on rural area development, Robison said.

“Not only is it a girls school, but it’s a brand new building being put up in the community, which is always something to be excited about,” said Robison.

Robison said the young women of Albu Issa will have more opportunities through a strengthened education system that opens the door to gradually working toward gender equality.

“In Iraq, once you have a high school education, there are all sorts of opportunities and government training programs that are available,” Robison said. “…at one time Iraq was more liberal in terms of gender equality. Iraq was the first Arab country to have a woman in a cabinet-level position. There is a history of women serving in high roles. In Fallujah, you don’t see it as much. This is a rural area where people tend to be more conservative.”

Robison said women may see more opportunities in the future. As Coalition forces move into overwatch, the people of Iraq will determine their own pace for societal changes.

“If (Iraq ever gets) to the point again where women advance, have senior-level positions in government and have the gender equality that we are used to in the States, (it’s women) are going to need that education,” Robison said. “We are laying the foundation for women to have that equality later on.”

The school is scheduled to be completed and open to residents in December.