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U.S. service members bring American education to Djibouti

By Cpl. Matthew J. Apprendi | | May 22, 2003

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BALBALA, Djibouti - Service members supporting Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and its counter-terrorism mission are assisting Fukazawa Secondary School teachers here revamp their English curriculum.

A key element to CJTF-HOA's mission is making a positive difference in the lives of the region's inhabitants through civil military operations. These operations directly support the task force's ability to detect, deter and defeat transnational terrorist groups operating in the Horn of Africa.

For more than a month, Army reserve 1st Lt. Eric Stennett, the postal officer-in-charge at Camp Lemonier, along with other volunteers, has been visiting the school weekly to discuss education issues with the teachers, and tutor the students in English.

Stennett, who holds a doctorate in education administration, has been exploiting his civilian skills to increase the bond between the two nations.

How does a high school principal from Pittsburgh accomplish this feat? By doing what he knows best - organizing a learning curriculum that prepares students for the future.  

Stennett is utilizing his contacts back home to garner assistance from secondary-language instructors to revamp the school's curriculum. The subject matter experts and the Djiboutian teachers have been discussing the curriculum via email.

Teachers face the same problem worldwide, Stennett explained, motivating students to love learning. This is the ultimate goal for all teachers, to include the ones here educating approximately 2,500 students, he said.

"Sharing information and ideas with colleagues is gratifying for all," said Joellen  Duckett, an English secondary-language instructor from Pittsburgh . "It's a win-win situation."

Duckett, who recently started corresponding with the Djiboutians, said the U.S. and Djibouti's mutual support of language learning demonstrates respect and appreciation from both cultures. Additionally, it's motivating to learn and share common goals with other teachers, she said.  

"Teachers who nourish literacy everywhere are united in their desire to have their students succeed," Duckett said.

"This is the first American involvement we had at our school," said Soleh Alwan, the school's principal. "The education they (students) receive from the U.S. will help our students find jobs in the future."

"It's been a good experience for all," Stennett said. "My (French) students back home have started a pen pal program with the Djiboutians."

This helps the Djiboutians, whose primary languages are Somali and French, with their English and assists the American students with French writing skills, Stennett added.  

The team's efforts have made possible an upcoming donation of valuable supplies to the school such as computers, desks and dictionaries.

"We started simple at first by telling the students who we are and about American culture," Stennett said.

Stennett is hopeful that one day the Djiboutian teachers will come and visit his school, where they too can experience first hand a different culture's school.

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