By Pfc. Cassandra Groce, 133rd MPAD
However, thanks to the efforts of Iraqi locals and Coalition Forces, the Iraqi schools in Diyala Province are getting a makeover.
“The conditions of the schools, many that I have seen, are so bad and so dirty,” said Maj. Rhonda A. Keisman, a civil affairs team leader in the Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry, 101st Airborne Division. “They are not conducive to a learning environment. We have made great progress in that.”
“The Muqdadiyah Technical School, which is a fairly large project, will benefit quite a few people with a population of approximately 140,000,” said Keisman. “This project has been under construction now for approximately two months and should be complete within another two months.”
The projects here are checked by Keisman and an Iraqi engineer to ensure the contractors are meeting all necessary requirements.
“I have started using the Iraqi engineers more because the expertise is not in our field,” said Keisman. “I’m not an engineer. I fund the projects and then pay the contractors. I can look and identify some of the problems, but for his technical expertise, I use the Iraqi engineers.”
The standards that these construction projects are held to do not follow the same guidelines as American projects.
“Their standards are much different than ours,” said Keisman. “We are used to 2×4 and stability in there (an American construction), and these are just like tree stumps that they use for their bracing. That is their standard, and it is all that is required.”
Since the standards are different, the projects are checked based on a list called a “scope of work.” Keisman and Iraqi engineers check the performance of the contractor against a list of what he has agreed to do. The engineers check the stability and quality of the reconstruction.
The projects being worked on in the Diyala Province are being turned over to the Iraqi government, much like security responsibilities in Iraq.
“The goal is to turn the projects over to the Iraqi government, not only for funding, but for prioritization and getting them to use a method to determine which projects they want to do and in what order,” said Keisman.
With the partnership between Coalition Forces and Iraqi officials, the quality of living conditions for students will continue to improve.
“The renovations are needed for those schools that are ongoing, because they have gone for many years without any work maintenance or upkeep,” said Keisman. “We’re getting the city council chairman as well as the engineers and mayor involved so everyone can help keep the contractor accountable.”