Sunday, April 11, 2010

ANA and 1 SCOTS distribute school books to Afghan kids

Two of the Wishtan schoolchildren with their teacher, Hafiz Hekmatullah, and Afghan National Army Sergeant Sangee

Soldiers from 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 SCOTS) and troops from the Afghan National Army (ANA) have distributed school books to children in the Wishtan area of Helmand province.

The densely populated area of southwest Wishtan is home to one of the largest schools in the area, teaching 50 children for five days per week in an area where literacy among young adults is very low and public schooling is targeted by insurgent intimidation.

On a previous visit to the area, teacher Hafiz Hekmatullah had explained to the British and Afghan soldiers that his school was in desperate need of exercise books and stationery; items difficult to find in Sangin.

So, on a subsequent joint patrol, soldiers of B Company, 1 SCOTS, and their partners from the ANA Heavy Weapons Company, 2/3/205 Kandak, Hero Corps, paid a special visit to the students with some much needed school supplies.

The area around the school is not a particularly safe place for children to play. In January, a young boy and his sister were killed by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) when they pulled at its protruding wires.

IEDs had been safely removed from the exact spot twice in the fortnight preceding the incident, but insurgents had replaced the device, leaving the street hazardous to the community who use it every day.

A pack of brightly coloured cartoons showing the dangers of touching unidentifiable objects was therefore included along with the stationery to be distributed in the hope that, through education, such tragedies may be avoided in the future.

The patrol arrived to find the children having a break for lunch, but a few remained to receive the gifts.

The ANA Heavy Weapons Company Warriors handed out 100 exercise books, 100 pens and pencils, as well as school bags, rulers, erasers and pencil sharpeners.

Sergeant Sangee of the ANA, who helped to hand out some of the stationery, said:

"It was good to see the children being happy. I hope they will learn everyday with these things."

Sgt Paul Naismith, 1 SCOTS, commander of the B Company soldiers, added:

"I was overjoyed to see the ANA interacting with the locals like this. This will serve to further the cause of the ANA in Wishtan and give these kids a better education."

Mr Hekmatullah was very pleased with the gifts:

"I wanted to teach them other things, and now I can. Thank you," he said.

Not wanting to attract undue attention to their activity, the patrol did not linger, but returned to Patrol Base Tangiers and FOB Wishtan as afternoon lessons began.

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