Finnish Soldiers help refurbishing a School
Capt. Constantin Spinu
First published in
SFOR Informer#151, November 7, 2002
In Novi Grad, Odzak municipality, the refurbishment of
the Primary School is now finished, thanks to a joint effort
from the Dutch and Finnish Governments, co-ordinated through
the divisional Finnish CIMIC (Civil-Military Co-operation)
from Multinational Division North (MND-N). People who used
to live in Novi Grad before the war now have another reason
to come back. Their children have a place to learn.
Novi Grad - A small but touching ceremony was held in this
town in the north of BiH, near the Croatian border on Oct.
23, when the newly refurbished Primary School was handed over
to the local community. The reconstruction of the building
was supervised in cooperation with United Nations Development
Program (UNDP) and the Finnish CIMIC. Finland and The Netherlands
funded the project.
A strong reason to come back
Houses of Novi Grad and the whole infrastructure were destroyed
during the war. By the end of summer 2002, 150 Bosnian - Serb
families have returned to the area. Novi Grad, with its shops,
churches and schools, is also a vital centre for many smaller
villages situated nearby and is therefore very important to
the returning process. Before the war the School of Novi Grad
had around 600 pupils. Now that the first phase of reconstruction
is completed, it is estimated that 150 to 200 students can
take classes. The school also attracts children from the nearby
villages of Struke, Trnjak, Prud, Donji Svilaj and Gornji
Svilaj. In a few years as many as 400 young children will
be students of the renovated School of Novi Grad.
These are some of the reasons why a project like this is important.
"We, as CIMIC personnel, are collecting information about
local communities' needs. The main criteria to decide project
priorities is if the project is helping displaced persons
to come back. And this school will definitely contribute to
this cause," explained Captain Eero Mykkänen, project
manager, Finnish CIMIC.
Money can't buy everything
"With all the money in the world we can't buy the most
precious thing: the future. And the future is now in your
hands. Take good care of your children!" said Mr. Jan
de Boer from the Dutch Embassy at the official opening, addressing
the local people. And Col. Kari Pohala, Finnish Army, head
of G5 MND-N, added "It is good to see this school ready
for its children. All you have to do now is to teach them
and prepare them for the future, in order to ensure your own
future." Residents of Novi Grad fully agreed with these
statements. "I have a 7-year daughter. Can you imagine
this child going kilometers to reach the nearest school? This
is the best human gesture that anybody could do for us. Thank
you," said Dragica Kalabic, a Novi Grad resident.
The future is up to the local community
But the project is not yet finished. It is still unclear who
will finance the interior and the heating system. Donors have
asked the local municipality to participate in this common
cause but there are no definitive answers. Heating is crucial
for the functioning of the school during the winter. "We
helped opening this school," said Mr. Henrik Kolstrup,
UNDP Resident Coordinator. "There is still a part of
the building which was not rehabilitated yet. It is now in
the hands of the local community to go on. We really want
to see life in this school." The future should be a bright
one, especially for the children.
Nations of SFOR: Finland