The Spin Masjid school building project, set for completion in two months, was the focus of the meeting, which attracted a delegation of education officials as well as interested members of the public.
The shura - a traditional Afghan public meeting - was held at the local ANP (Afghan National Police) station in Paind Kalay and was attended by approximately 100 people.
It began with a speech from the provincial Education Minister for Lashkar Gah, Lal Mohammed Bawar, who compared children in Kabul who carry pens with children in Paind Kalay, some of whom carry knives. He said:
We must get our children back to school. At last we have an opportunity here. If we stand together we can have a better future for ourselves.
He was followed by Haji Balul Khan, chairman of the community council of Gereshk, who compared the opportunities and education systems which exist in other countries with Afghanistan. He said:
We must get this temporary school up and running, we must find teachers and get the children out of the fields. Children should not carry shovels but pens. The reason why we are in such a bad way is due to poor or no education.
There was a strong sense of solidarity from the main speakers during the shura. In a second speech by the Education Minister, following up on the comments of others, he said:
The school has been built three times in the past and destroyed each time. If it is destroyed again, we will build it again. We want the school to be here.
Our children shouldn’t be in the fields with their hands on the shovels, they should be in school with their hands on their pens. For thirty years we have not had that opportunity. Now ISAF and all the people that are here at the moment are here to help us and we should stand together and grasp that.
In the final speech of the shura, Major Crispin Humm, Officer Commanding C (Bruneval) Company, pledged British troops’ backing for the school project and told the villagers:
We understand that education and security are strongly linked. You must support your village development council to resist intimidation.
It was apparent from the reception he received, that after only two weeks of being in Afghanistan, Major Humm has won the popular support of local village development council members.
As a stopgap measure, until the Spin Masjid school is completed, a temporary teaching facility within the ANP station was agreed, with local police commander Lieutenant Mohammed Wali agreeing to provide security. Land will be levelled this week to facilitate the tents that will constitute this facility.
The 2 PARA Battle Group is currently deployed on a six-month tour to the Nahr-e Saraj (South) district of Helmand province as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade.