Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Education in the Middle East: Improving Lives and Promoting Peace

Greg Mortenson, a former mountain climber, pledged to build his first school in Korphe, Pakistan when he stumbled into the rural village, sick and exhausted, after a failed attempt to summit the mountain K2. After receiving an endowment from the scientist Jean Hoerni, Mortenson founded the Central Asia Institute, which has successfully established 78 schools for children in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. The CAI makes it a priority to learn from the local people, and to help the communities help themselves. Every CAI project is initiated by people in the community, and they are asked to volunteer labor for building the school. Mortenson believes that this policy helps to empower the local people as well as keeping costs low.

Mortenson and the CAI build schools because they care about helping children. Because educating girls has the biggest impact on quality of life for the entire village, they focus on enrolling girls. However, in the aftermath of 9/11, the CAIs work has taken on a greater significance for Americans. In much of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the only schools available are Islamic madrassas, which are often run by extremist Muslims who use them to advance anti-American agendas and recruit for the Taliban. Mortenson believes that if children are offered options for balanced, moderate education, support for terrorists will eventually evaporate. Therefore, the only sustainable way to fight terror is to improve access to education in the Middle East.

Since its inception, the CAI has expanded to provide women's centers and public health resources in addition to schools, teacher training, and teacher salaries. The New York Times #1 best seller Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time, coauthored by Mortenson and journalist David Oliver Relin, tells the CAI's story.

For more, visit https://www.ikat.org/

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