Thursday, January 25, 2007

Education, education, education

(Image courtesy Greg Mortenson, Central Asia Institute)

Writing about education in Afghanistan the other day reminded me about a project in the region that I've wanted to write about for a while. American Greg Mortenson has been setting up schools in remote parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan since 1993 when he attempted to climb the world's second highest mountain, K2. Since then, according to his website, he has set up 58 schools, which have educated as many as 14,000 children. I came across his work at the end of a walk through the Karakoram mountains of northern Pakistan, in the moutain village of Hushe.
Much is made of the role that religious schools - madrassahs - have played in the radicalisation of young men in the lawless border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Here, Mortenson is going about providing an alternative: balanced education, particularly for girls, which provides a bulwark against extremism. His book, Three Cups of Tea, which I am going to read, is published here in February. As the politicians begin to realise that the "War on Terror" cannot be won by force, Mortenson's work deserves much wider recognition and support.

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