Building With Books

Lessons from the Central Asia Institute

Greg Mortenson talks with his friend and supporter Mehdi Ali at the indus hotel in skardu, Pakistan, in July 2007. Mortenson has been able to build girls schools in conservative, rural areas of Pakistan by gaining trust and nurturing relationships with the villagers.

© Deirdre Eitel, 2007

© Ellen Jaskol 2010

The Method

Simple ♦ Inclusive ♦ Effective

Being financially independent of a single large donor or government has enabled a focused and effective approach by the CAI. In essence: problem; observation -> consultation -> construction. Being culturally sensitive and remaining aware of local custom requires the close involvement of the host community in every phase of the school's construction and ongoing operation to ensure all parties are satisfied. This is crucial to the success of a project. The CAI places a condition on the funding and construction of schools: girls' enrolments must increase by ten percent each year and the village/community is asked to match the financial outlay for the school in labour and support - a solution they take on board with relish. (Mortenson and Relin 2007)

This unorthodox, but effective method used by Mortenson earned him a dedicated following in northern Pakistan where news of the success of the school at Korphe, his pioneer project, travelled quickly despite the rugged geography of the area. It set a precedent that soon had the requests for his attention pouring in from numerous villages desperate to see a new generation of educated girls, and boys, in their own communities.

The curriculum taught in CAI schools remains the same as any ‘good’ public school in Pakistan: a balanced, non-extremist curriculum that delivers the essentials and remains relevant.

“I don't want to teach Pakistan's children to think like Americans. I just want them to have a balanced, non-extremist education. That idea is at the very center of what we do.” Greg MortensonThree Cups of Tea

This effective methodology and implementation is what rallies such incredible support behind the work of Greg Mortenson and the CAI throughout the whole region. It enables them to build and maintain schools in areas even the military wouldn’t go.

Give the community the means to make their own school, and they will make sure it is protected.