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10/25/03 - IRAQ’S SCHOOLS REBORN - 2003-10-27

(Voices of Iraqi schoolchildren) These are the excited, happy voices of children on their first day of school. But this first day is special, because these are Iraqi children, and, for the first time, they are going to school in freedom.

It has been six months since a U.S.-led coalition removed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from power. Since then, the coalition has been working with the Iraqi people to rebuild and lay the foundation for the country’s first democratic government.

In northern Ninevah province, coalition soldiers and non-governmental organizations have been rebuilding more than eight-hundred schools. Schools in need of supplies or new windows or a complete renovation have received a helping hand from coalition troops like Sergeant First Class Rock Upchurch. "The students are eager to go back,” he said, “especially those who are going to new, renovated schools.”

Baghdad’s Dufaf al-Neil School has been refurbished by coalition troops and Iraqi contractors. Among the students are the two daughters of Faiza Noman, who told the Voice of America her girls were so excited, they hardly slept the night before school.

On the first day, coalition soldiers delivered school supplies donated by American civilians. U.S. Army Major Greg Softy told V-O-A that he decided to use the Internet to solicit support for Iraqi schools:

"These are all donations of our immediate friends and family of soldiers that work here, and as some of the organizations pick it up back in the [United] States, and church groups and other schools, it will get much bigger from here."

U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Charles Williams told V-O-A that the school project has improved relations with the Iraqi people:

"Regardless of what you may hear and see elsewhere, and there are still some issues with attacks and resistance, but the children's faces don't lie. Whatever effort you are making, it's making a difference for them right now."

If you want to help make life better for Iraq’s schoolchildren, visit the web site: www-dot-iraqischools-dot-com.