Winning in Afghanistan: Education [Archive] - RetrieverTraining.Net - the RTF

: Winning in Afghanistan: Education

Gerry Clinchy
11-25-2009, 12:45 PM

Fighting Terrorism With Schools

If McC's program for A'stan is to support these efforts, then there is hope.

Now we have crossed the border into ground zero of the war against terrorism. In 2004, CAI opened its first school in Afghanistan; this year, our 39th. Including tent schools in refugee camps, we already educate 39,000 Afghan children, mostly girls. Taking our mission into a war zone has proved enormously challenging and dangerous. Yet my commitment to educating girls has only grown stronger. Indeed, we hope soon to complete a 200-mile line of girls’ schools directly through the heart of Taliban country.

Young women are the developing world’s greatest agents of progress. Just one year of schooling will dramatically raise a girl’s later economic prospects, and where girls get to fifth grade, birth rates and infant mortality plunge. Teaching girls to read and write reduces the ignorance and poverty that fuel religious extremism and lays a groundwork for prosperity and peace. In military parlance, educating girls is a “force multiplier.”

To succeed as nations, Pakistan and Afghanistan require the full engagement of their women. But not just their women. In every village in which CAI operates, we seek the support of local religious leaders and elders. In the tiny Pakistani village of Chunda, it took us eight years to convince the local mullah, an immensely conservative man, to permit a single girl to go to school. Today, more than 300 girls attend classes in Chunda—with the backing of the same mullah who originally barred their way.

In 2000, when the Taliban were still in power, only 800,000 children in Afghanistan—a nation of nearly 33 million—attended school. Almost none were girls. Today, some 8.5 million Afghan children are in school, including nearly 2 million girls. These are amazing numbers—a testament not only to Afghans’ thirst for literacy but also to their willingness to pour scarce resources into slaking it.

Equally gratifying is the response of the U.S. military. In recent years, its leaders have repeatedly turned to me for guidance in improving relationships with tribal and village leaders. I am honored that my 2006 book, Three Cups of Tea, is now required reading for all Special Forces soldiers deploying to Afghanistan. A lowly ex–enlisted man, I have now had the privilege of briefing the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen.

Gerry Clinchy
11-25-2009, 12:56 PM

An earlier article published in 2006.