Count the dead Russians/ Americans

Christian A. Gregory christian11 at
Tue Oct 2 13:46:15 PDT 2001

> How did you draw this conclusion from the attached article? What does the
> failure of public education in Pakistan have to do with US?
> wojtek

See the 'graphs exerpted below. As Michael suggested long ago in his excellent post, if the US is going to play the role of imperial hegemon, there are better and worse ways to do it. It cannot fund opposition to the Soviets, then leave when its narrowly defined goals are accomplished, and expect democratic--or even humane--institutions to appear. They have to be built. (Hence, Michael's argument that the US, if it takes out the Taliban, has to replace it with something more workable. You can define this as cynically as you like.)

Christian ...... But when the Soviets retreated in 1989, the U.S. and other Western governments invested relatively little in promoting civil institutions such as education. Militant Muslims eagerly stepped into the vacuum, and their madrasahs educated many of the taliban who went on to form the movement of that name which now rules Afghanistan.

At least one education program the U.S. did sponsor probably did little to break the culture of violence that envelops children here from an early age. The Agency for International Development paid the University of Nebraska $50 million over eight years, from 1986 to 1994, to produce educational materials for Afghan primary- and secondary-school students. But texts on a range of subjects were highly politicized and often had a militaristic overtone, Tom Gouttierre, director of the university's Center for Afghan Studies in Omaha, now concedes. Some questions prodded students to tackle basic math by counting dead Russians and Kalashnikov rifles.

Private aid groups have tried other approaches on a smaller scale and shown some success. The U.S. branch of Save the Children took over primary education from the Pakistani government in the camps for Afghan refugees in the southern Baluchistan province in 1995. Then, only 6,000 children were enrolled. On a standardized test administered when the program began, only one of the 647 girls passed. With a meager $1 million annual budget, part of which is funded by the U.S. State Department, the program now educates more than 16,000 Afghan refugees with new texts developed in Germany.


Supported financially by the British organization Oxfam, among others, Ms. Sarabi's school is filled with students who are desperate to catch up. "We have seen so much opportunity taken from us, we never take holidays here, not even weekends or holy days," she says to the approving nods of a cramped room of several dozen fourth-graders, some sitting two to a chair. The students crisply recite their multiplication tables and offer a friendly communal greeting to an outsider. Their classroom wall sports a trophy case of land mines children are taught to avoid.

Nearby, a separate low-profile program paid for by Western aid organizations serves boys, ages 7 to 12, who survive by scavenging in the city's plentiful garbage piles. When they drop by for several hours a day, the boys learn reading, art and other subjects at what seems like a kindergarten level. Aid officials say the program, started in the late 1990s, could die by next year because of a lack of funding.

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