Sunday, 2 August 2009


On a TV news item on the causes of terrorism in Pakistan, the matter of poverty and desperation came up - one comment was that ordinary folk became recruits for militant activity, because they didn't connect with the politicians in Islamabad who were too busy being chauffeured around in brand new Mercedes cars.

I went to a madrassah a couple of days ago where boys and girls are housed free of cost and schooled in an Islamic education. This was quite a 'modern' madrassah with computers as part of the standard education - the students in school were pulled in from varying regions and represented a cross section of the different ethnic groups in Pakistan. Technology classes hadn't started yet, so it would have been interesting to see how this was applied to the students' learning. What was clear was how the school was open about its missionary purpose - it was run by a group of Sunni Gilgitis, themselves a minority in the Ismaili Shia dominated northern tip of Pakistan.

Madrassahs have come under the spotlight, of course, because they are funded by non-government sources and are often pointed at for churning out the next batch of suicide bombers.

Whatever the truth, present and past governments have an abysmal track record on education spending. The education budget counts for peanuts, so surely the blame lies not with the madrassahs but with successive Pakistan governments for whom education has not been a priorty.

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