Saturday, January 17, 2009

Schools being aided by CMOC in Basra

I visited two school schools in Basra that are being helped by CMOC (Civil Military Operations Office) and passed by the site of a third where a 3 million dollar school is being built, overseen by Mott Macdonald, an engineering and development consultancy firm based in the UK.

One school in the Al Hyyaniyah (the projects of Basra) is extremely run down. The school has broken windows, no electricity, primitive bathrooms and garbage strewn in the stairwells.
Members of the insurgency are present in that part of town, along with abject poverty. Visiting the school is a security issue, but visiting the school in person is how CMOC assess the schools needs,and establishes an American hands-on presence visible in the neihborhood. Many unkept promises have been made in the recent past so people are skeptical when promised help anew, yet they are seeing first hand what CMOC is doing and are now very receptive.
The other school is a convent school run by the Dominican Sisters of Presentation in an area near Basra’s riverside. The convent school was recently renovated with American funds .I attended a ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating the completion of the project. There are plenty of improvements the school would still like to make, but CMOC an only contributes to each recipient of its funds once. Part of the projects success was due to Sister Susanna who runs the school. She initiated the project by showing up at Camp Basra asking to meet with Mott Macdonald- and made sure things were done to her specifications once she got them to sign on to renovate the school. The school is colorful and clean, with a new tiled roof, bright murals and meeting rooms as well as giant TV’s.

Education is critical for all societies, especially one bombed almost to the ground.
In this instance some of American dollars are being spent wisely. I can't help but think about the schools in New Orleans, some that are still standing, but closed up and moldy. Why is there no money forthcoming for them?

images - from left to right- Convent school renovated, School stairway in Al Hyyaniyah, classroom in Al Hyyaniyah, Detail of teaching aid at convent school, Girl at school in Al Hyyaniyah, Girl at convent school, Boy at convent school, Classroom at convent school, Ribbon cutting ceremony at convent school, Boy at convent

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