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Monday, July 30, 2007

CJTF-HOA helps provide education to Pemba Island children

22 July 07
by Maj. Kristi Beckman
CJTF-HOA Public Affairs

CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti – “Asalaam aleikum,” (may God’s peace be upon you) and “karibu,” (welcome) are common words you will hear on Pemba Island of Zanzibar, Tanzania, in East Africa, which was the site of a primary school dedication by Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa on July 16.

A dedication is an event the coalition of Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa holds when they complete a civil-military project. The dedication symbolizes turning over the completed project to the local community. So far this year, CJTF-HOA has dedicated 22 projects throughout the Horn of Africa.

Through building wells, constructing schools and conducting numerous other Civil-Military Operations, CJTF-HOA is building capacity throughout the Horn of Africa to prevent conflict, promote regional stability and protect coalition interests in order to prevail against extremism.

The construction of this dedication project was the result of a combined effort of the U.S. military, U.S. State Department, United States Agency for International Development, the Government of Tanzania and the Zanzibari Department of Education. The delegation consisted of the U.S. Ambassador to the United Republic of Tanzania, Michael L. Retzer; Zanzibari Minister of Education, Honorable Haroun Ali Suleiman; Country Director for USAID, Pamela White; Director of Strategic Communication for CJTF-HOA, Navy Capt. Robert Wright as well as numerous other U.S. and Tanzanian government officials.

The U.S. military delegation traveled to the island to dedicate the Matale Village Primary School to the people of the village. The village is home to about 3,000 people. A winding dirt road, which runs through the village, intertwines through a lush green jungle of thick palms and banana plants where women are dressed in colorful scarves and children stare at the passersby with big brown, curious eyes as the men wave from the doorsteps of their homes.

As the party pulled up to the school, they were greeted by several hundred children singing and dancing at the top of their lungs. “Leo twashangiria shule ku fungui wa.” Translated, it means, “Today we are celebrating because our school is opening.” The school, built by a local contractor, TRADETECH, Limited, and funded by the U.S. Government, will become a learning center for more than 250 children, ages 7-13. Until now, the children walked between three and five kilometers (one-way) to go to school. This walking distance contributed to a high drop out rate and ultimately a higher illiteracy rate in this rural area.

After cutting the inaugural ribbon and unveiling two new dedication plaques in English and Kiswahili, Minister Suleiman praised the children for their excellent academic marks and called the new Matale Village Primary School the “number one” school in all of Zanzibar. He thanked the U.S. government for working in close partnership with the government of Tanzania on this and other important assistance projects.

The plaques state “Matale Village School is a gift from the people of the United States of America to the people of the United Republic of Tanzania. Dedicated July 2007 by Ambassador Michael L. Retzer.” The $210,000 invested by the U.S. government in building and outfitting Matale Village Primary School are part of a total U.S. government assistance program in Tanzania totaling over $540,000,000 in 2007.

“On behalf of the American people, I wish to congratulate the Matale community, and I would like to encourage the children of Matale to study hard in the classroom,” said Retzer. “Your future will be brighter indeed.”

The party toured the new school, which is one of the only schools on the island with electricity. In the spacious classrooms were long wooden bench desks furnished by USAID. They were designed to fit three children each and the tops of the desks held school supplies of notebooks, coloring books, pens, pencils, glue, calculators and athletic equipment. The school supplies were donated by Mrs. Waldrop’s class at Rhodes Elementary School in Milton, Fla. The relationship between the two schools was established by Chief Petty Officer Shane Peterson, Country Coordination Element Senior Noncommissioned Officer in Charge.

“I explained to my wife what we were doing for the children of Matale village and she decided to contact my children's teachers at Rhodes Elementary and propose a sort of school partnership; not only to help the children and teachers of Matale, but to educate the children at Rhodes about the culture of the Island of Pemba.”

The dedication of the Matale Village School was a significant event for CJTF-HOA and its interagency partners, exemplifying U.S. capacity building efforts in Africa, said Wright. He was overwhelmed by the day’s events. As he spoke to the children, he said, “I have never seen so many beautiful children and so much hope. While we celebrate these beautiful new buildings today, we also celebrate the friendship and partnership between the people of the United States and Tanzania.”

Adding to the comments during the dedication, Minister Suleiman recognized the significance of the contribution to the lives of the children of Matale Village and to the future of education in Tanzania. “Mister Ambassador, you did a good job” said Minister Suleiman, who followed with similar praise for CJTF-HOA’s effort saying “Captain Bob, you and your team did a good job”.

Summing up the dedication, Captain Wright said the Matale School was a huge collaborative success. “The project results exceeded everyone's expectations and will undoubtedly contribute to increased quality of life and opportunity for the children of Pemba,” he said.

Pemba Island is the world's leading clove producer boasting more than three million clove trees. More than 350,000 people inhabit Pemba, also known as “Al Jazeera Al Khadra” (the green island, in Arabic). Pemba forms part of the Zanzibar archipelago, lying off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean.

Photo - U.S. Ambassador Michael Retzer, Director of USAID Pamela White; Zanzibar Minister of Education Honorable Haroun Suleiman, and Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa representative Navy Capt. Bob Wright dedicates a Matale Village Primary School, to the village of Matale, Pemba Island, Tanzania July 16. Photo by MC1(AW/SW) Clinton C. Beaird.

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