AL KUT, Iraq -- The schools in Al Kut opened today with mixed results.
Most of the administrative work to get the schools going has been done or will be done soon.
The U.S. Marine Corps' 4th Civil Affairs Group is working with school officials to handle pay of employees, refurbishing of equipment such as tables and chairs, and other necessary things, in order to get the kids to school as quickly as possible.
The 4th CAG's work has cleared unexploded ordinance and equipment left by the Iraqi Army, who often used the schools as makeshift forts. They also brought back the teachers, who are now getting paid. But, the students still seem hesitant to return.
Director of Schools, Ali Fadhil-Al-Hurganny, would like to see the schools running normal but agrees there is still work to be done.
"There are rumors that this office and schools will be attacked. Many people will be afraid, especially the kids,"Ali said.
When you visit the schools, "You will find teachers, but little number of pupils," he added.
Ali is optimistic the Iraqi people will return to the schools once things grow quieter.
"The general situation is good. Today is better than yesterday and tomorrow is best," he said.
"We expect this situation to go back to normal. It's a step by step process," he said.
The Marines are working with the Iraqi police to maintain order.
The Al Kut schools have a way to go before they are back to normal. Due to past neglect, lootings and burnings, many schools have minimal supplies.
Out of approximately 300 schools in the area, 120 have been damaged.
The director of education has requested 8,500 chairs; 6,500 of those with an attached writing surface. Four thousand cases of paint are needed for the damaged buildings.
The Coalition Forces are helping where they can.
"The Navy Seabees have made tables for the schools, and we found a place in Baghdad to get blackboards for them," said Sgt. John Croce, 4th CAG.
The curriculum for the schools remains the same except for one change.
"Everyday the kids had to take time for Saddam studies. They had to learn about him and his party. Now, the courses are math, reading, writing, and science. All the pictures, posters, and decorations of Saddam regime have been removed," Croce said.
Since the schools are now running, the challenge for the Iraqi people will be to get the kids back in school. The teachers, administrators and the 4th CAG will be happy to see them back in their seats.