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Good news from Pakistan

We agonize a lot here about Islamic fundamentalism. But what can be done about it?

There are many reasons why Islamism of the most belligerent sort now stalks the earth, but one of them is that in many parts of the world, if you want an education, your only choice now is often either an education presided over by Islamic fundamentalists, or no education at all.

It is this problem which a group of businessmen in Pakistan have set out to remedy. With financial help from people of Pakistani descent who are living it Britain, they have established The Citizens’ Foundation, and there was an article about the work of TCF in the Times Magazine yesterday by Joanna Pitman.


The six of them – all highly successful top-level managers – met in August 1995 and began to think seriously about the problems. They addressed poverty, health, intolerance, population, education, water and sanitation, and concluded that the solution to all these issues was education. In Pakistan, education remains desperately, stupidly low on the list of government priorities. The state schooling system, riddled with corruption, has been either non-existent or on the point of collapse for many years. The result is a massive intellectual deficit: out of a total population of 145 million, the country has 28 million children entirely unschooled and 41 per cent of adult men and 70 per cent of adult women illiterate. Ironically, in some areas, the first parents queueing to send their children to TCP schools rum out to be government schoolteachers.

The six businessmen decided to set up a corporate-style charitable organisation to build and run schools offering high-quality education to both girls and boys in the poorest areas of the country. Within four months, the ground had been broken to construct the first five schools, paid for out of the pockets of the founders, and by May 1996 all five were operational. Only once the schools had been running successfully for a year did TCF begin to expand – not through advertising or asking for funds, but simply by taking people to see the reality and letting them spread the word.

Its target is to build 1,000 primary a secondary schools by 2010, which will cater for 350-400,000 children at a time, offering them a high-quality, secular education that is the envy of most government schools and comparable to the country’s elite private schools. “We want these children to compete with our own children,” says Saleem, whose four teenage children are being educated at the best Pakistani private school and at the American School.

I have been unable to locate this article either here or anywhere else (although if someone can correct that, please do), and so have taken the liberty of scanning it all into my Education Blog, where you can now read the whole thing. If you do that, you will not, I believe, regard your time as having been wasted.

This project strikes me as an example of all kinds of good things, but in particular of the benefits that can come to a poor country when people from it are able to go and live in richer countries, and are then able to do something about the depressing circumstances from which they thought at first only of escaping.

In general, I believe that if Islam ever does get past confrontation and accommodates itself amicably into humanity as a whole, the Islamic diaspora will be an important part of this process.

7 comments to Good news from Pakistan

  • Brian,

    Those schools will no doubt be burned down soon, and the five businessmen assassinated or else terrorised into inactivity, all by Islamic extremists.

    I’m not being pessimistic; I just study history.

  • Don’t worry, Musharraf wil make sure those 5 guys “disappear” as soon as they get involved in changing the status quo. Do not underestimate the futility of striving for progress in Pakistan. The only way for “real” progress in Pakistan would be to make it a British colony again.

  • The irony of these fundamentalists is that I thought they belonged to a peaceful religion. Of the Islamic people I’ve met, they believe that violence is condemned. Perhaps pointing this out to them would lessen the validity of their main reason for the terrorism. Then they may continue, but if they cannot be justified, then there is no way that the attacks could continue with as much determination.

  • Tariq

    Thank you for posting TCF’s profile on this site. Our thousands of supporters in the UK, US, Middle East and Pakistan will be delighted. They visit our projects annually and see for themselves the difference their invaluable support is making- and they shun arm chair criticism.

    Three points for consideration:

    – President Musharraf personally inaugurated some TCF schools this year

    – an Islamic party MP in Karachi has pleaded with TCF to open schools in his area. He has allotted a number of pieces of land and a number of schools being built will be ready by next March

    – when TCF was founded, many sceptics stated that it will never succeed. Less than 10 years on, we have an enrollment capacity of 35,000 children, 180 schools, 2 teacher training facilities and a new school being constructed every week

    Best wishes to all our supporters

  • azhar

    sceptics about TCF are either ignorant or blatantly malicious. either way they are wrong. in addition they have absolutely no knowledge of Pakistan and its society and culture. TCF is growing leaps and bounds and has supporters all over Europe, Middle east and united states. One has only to go to Pakistan and see it happening ! Interested in what we do ? keep watching !

  • I have nothing against TCF. In fact, I hadn’t heard of it before reading this blog, so I am in no position to either criticize or support the program yet. I will say that I’m glad to finally hear about positive movements in the Middle East.

  • riasat

    Islam is the religion of peace for every one .A muslim always gives peace to others .He /she never takes the life .The very basice of islam starts from the peace .The example is when ever a muslim meet the other one he / she prefers to say salam which means peace and blessing of god on the person he/ she meets and the same way the person recieving the salam has to return that peace by saying walekum aslam .The best example is the secrifice of Grand son of prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ; who not only give his life he prfered to sacrifice all his family .but did not adopt the way of distruction for every one .