Sunday, December 13, 2009

From Marketplace

Author Greg Mortenson has been in and out of Afghanistan for almost 20 years. He says the solution to Afghanistan's problems should start with education.

"I grew up in Tanzania for 14 years and there I learned a proverb that says, 'If you educate a boy, we can educate an individual; and if we educate a girl, we can educate a community.'"

The organization Mortenson founded, the Central Asia Institute, has built more than 130 schools, mostly for girls, in the most remote parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"I learned both from my father and a wise old village chief ... let the people make the decisions. And that's the basis of all our efforts. We provide skilled labor, materials, teacher training, but the community has to provide free land, free resources, free sweat equity, meaning 2 to 5,000 days of free manual labor. But they also make the decisions.

"From day one we've never taken a dime of federal money. It frees us up so we're not perceived as an instrument of the US government. So we can freely talk with the US military commanders or the Taliban or anybody that we want to. We have a program called Pennies for Peace, and that's a program where children learn about philanthropy. They're also encouraged to do things on their own. And last year we raised $1.4 million just from Pennies.

"You could build 40 to 50 schools. And over the term of maybe 20-30 years educate about 100,000 children.

"I really think the key to peace in the world is education. But what it is, is it's really about ignorance and hatred. And to overcome that what we need is education, we need tolerance."

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