A Heart in Education
By A.H. Cemendtaur
Carefully contrived acronyms give a subliminal message about the disposition of an organization. Developments in Literacy, a non-profit organization operating schools in Pakistan, has such an acronym (DIL) -- for those who understand Urdu; the initialism gives one the warm fuzzy feeling of working with a group that has its heart in education. In DIL's annual fundraiser arranged in Palo Alto on November 7, over 250 participants got ample opportunity to hear about and see (in a documentary, featuring Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times) DIL's heartfelt efforts in promoting primary education in Pakistan.
And education in Pakistan -- and Afghanistan -- is what many in the West are currently rooting for. Torn between the generals' ever increasing demands of troops boost and the peaceniks' cries for a quick and complete pullout from Afghanistan, the US administration often appears looking for an alternative solution. Enter the educationists. They tell you the problem can be solved for only $1 per child per month, through educating people.
The vanguards of the educationcorps are the various non-profit organizations, several of them based in the US (DIL, HDF, TCF, etc.).
The superstar in this cluster of education-warriors is Greg Mortenson whose bestseller, `Three Cups of Tea', has made a lot of Americans wonder if their country is trying to win the `War on Terror' the wrong way.
Greg Mortenson was the special guest of the DIL annual fundraiser, but he got sick and could not make it to the program.
The keynote speaker of DIL's program was Dr. Adil Najam, Professor of Global Public Policy at Boston University, and a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore. In a speech laced with witty remarks and clever insights, Dr.
Najam said the Pakistanis suffered from a "national syndrome of achieving individual excellence amidst collective failure". He said in order for Pakistan to climb up on the Human Development Index -an index based on quantifiable measures of life expectancy (health), per capita GDP (wealth), and education attainment -- the country has to invest heavily in education. Priming the audience for the fundraising part of the event, Dr. Najam quoted statistics from "Portrait of a Giving Community: Philanthropy by the Pakistani-American Diaspora", a 2007 study done under his supervision, and said the Pakistanis living in the US were very generous in their philanthropy.
Greg Mortenson's speaking slot was taken by Dr. Abdul Jabbar who is associated with the City College of San Francisco and is a board member of the Central Asia Institute (founded by Mortenson). Eulogizing the mentor of his organization, Dr. Jabbar said Mortenson's success in building and operating schools in Pakistan lay in Mortenson's understanding of the local culture and his approach of involving the community in the endeavor. A documentary about the Central Asian Institute's work in remote northern areas of Pakistan and in parts of Afghanistan was also screened.
The speeches and a subsequent dinner were followed by a musical performance by Pakistan's prominent vocalist Tahira Syed. The duo of Paru Yusuf and Ambreen Jamal emceed the program.