- The Washington Times - Friday, April 25, 2003

The U.S. government and a District company with a $1 million contract are working with Iraqis to restart their country's broken educational system to serve an estimated 4.2 million children.
Creative Associates International Inc. (CAII) was given the high-priority task of increasing enrollment and improving the quality of primary and secondary education in Iraq.
"This is a sector that is so enormously important to the people of Iraq," Wendy Chamberlain, the U.S. Agency for International Development's assistant administrator for Asia and the Near East, said yesterday at a conference on the agency's education project.
The government agency sees the education system as a way to promote democracy, stability and economic growth in Iraq.
But the country's school year effectively stopped in late March as the war started, ending the academic year early.
Even before the recent hostilities began, the country's schools were battered by two decades of conflict and neglect. About 70 percent of them are in dire need of renovation and repair, with many posing health hazards to the students, according to the UNICEF.
About a quarter of Iraqi children between the age of 6 and 12 did not attend school, the United Nations' agency estimates.
USAID's contract calls for starting the 2003-2004 Iraqi school year on time in September, with buildings ready and supplies in place.
"There is an awful lot to do in a very short time," said Frank Dall, a senior associate at CAII.
The school curriculum needs to be changed, textbooks printed, materials supplied, buildings fixed and children enrolled.
A committee of four to eight Iraqis will work with CAII to identify and work through the issues, Mr. Dall said.
CAII has named five project subcontractors and plans to send a team to Iraq within the next week, said Steve Horblitt, the firm's director of external relations.
North Carolina-based RTI International; Arlington-based DevTech Systems Inc.; Cambridge, Mass.-based American Islamic Congress; Washington-based Iraq Foundation and District-based American University are working as subcontractors, Mr. Horblitt said.
CAII, founded 26 years ago, has experience working in countries transitioning to democracy, and did a recent project in Afghanistan, Mr. Horblitt said.
"We've been in these kind of situations and know that education matters," he said.
The education contract is initially for $1 million over one year, though the figure could increase as needs are assessed, a USAID spokesman said.
The contract is one of nine offered by USAID to rebuild the country.
Contracts also have been awarded for seaport administration, capital construction, personnel support and local governance, and involve helping local governments provide basic services in Iraq's cities and town.
Still to be awarded are contracts for airport administration, logistical support, public health, and community action, which deals with citizen participation in government.
Capital construction is the biggest contract thus far the initial award to San Francisco-based Bechtel Group is $34.6 million but could expand to $680 million over 18 months.
Bechtel has opened an office in Kuwait City and will have a small group of engineers in place by the weekend, said Alison Abbott, a Bechtel spokeswoman.
As its first project, the firm is looking to start work on the port of Umm Qasr so that it can accept greater amounts of supplies and equipment. Water, sewage and power projects also are high priorities, she said.
Bechtel is putting together work packages and plans to host conferences at several locations in the United States, in London and probably in the Middle East to begin looking for subcontractors.
The process will be competitive and open to American and international contractors that comply with U.S. federal regulations, Ms. Abbott said.

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