Monday, July 7, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 7 Jul 2008

From MNF-I, Hawijah’s literacy program gains national attention in Iraq.

HAWIJAH, Iraq – Iraq’s Deputy Minister of Education, Nehad Al-Juburi, and the Prime Minister’s Education Advisor, Zaid Chaid, paid a historic visit to Hawijah to bring national attention to its pilot literacy program July 5.

Five-hundred Sons of Iraq members in four of the sub-districts of Hawijah, Iraq--Zaab, Abassi, Riyadh and Hawijah city--are currently participating in this program, which teaches students at a 3rd to 4th grade reading level.

“Education is the foundation to rebuilding,” Dr. Nehad told the audience, which included close to 100 of Hawijah’s SoI students in the program in Hawijah. “You should be proud of what you are accomplishing here and know that you are setting the example for your country to follow.”

According to its Ministry of Education, 5.6 million Iraqis are illiterate. Thirty percent of Hawijah’s population falls into that category.

The pilot program was envisioned by Gen. David Petraeus, the commanding general of Multi-National Force – Iraq, and is being facilitated by Soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division. Its initial design is to prepare SoI members for transition into the Iraqi Security Forces. The application process for both the Iraqi Police and its Army requires applicants to be literate.

The program kicked off in Hawijah, June 15, and is already fulfilling the dreams of some participants.

“I do not have the words to explain this great feeling I have when I was able to write and show my family my name for the first time,” said Abdulkarem Khalif Faris, 24.

“It was like flying. I want to thank God and my government for this chance.”

Faris had to quit at the elementary school level to help his family farm in the agricultural based economy. He hopes to apply to the IP Academy in Kirkuk City when the four-month program ends.

Hawijah Mayor Sabah Khalaf Ali praised the combined efforts of the CF and ISF for the security gains measuring around a 90 percent reduction in violent attacks against CF, ISF and citizens in this region which will now allow the country to focus its efforts on jobs and education,” he said.

“It’s only fitting on the day after our nation’s birthday I quote one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, who said that education is a gift to the people,” said Col. David Paschal, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division commander.

Lt. Col. Christopher Vanek told the SoI students in attendance to be proud of their accomplishments, referencing the security increases over the past 10 months that were key to the area’s selection by Gen. Petraeus.

“Your city and district have been chosen as the model program that may eventually educate millions of Iraqis nation-wide,” Vanek said.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark R. Zamzow, Deputy Chief of Staff, Strategic Communications, Multi-National Force-Iraq, attended along with other GoI representatives from Baghdad to include Dr. Ala Mekki, Chair of the Education Committee of the Council of Representatives, Dr. Raja Hamdun Abdullah al-Qadoo, Member of the Education Committee of the Council of Representatives and Dr. Hamid Yassin, Director of Vocational Education, Ministry of Education.