I just read Three Cups of Tea, (Penguin Books, 2007) Greg Mortenson’s journey to climb K2 that “failed” and in the process took him in an entirely different direction when he was separated from his sherpa and wandered into the village of Korphe, Pakistan.
While there, he was nursed back to health by the people of Korphe. In his walks around the village while recuperating he noticed that there was no school — the 78 school-age children were kneeling on a frost-covered field practicing their multiplication tables in the dirt. They shared a teacher with another village, who came only three days a week, and on this particular day the teacher was in the other village.
Greg was so impressed with the children’s desire to learn in such conditions that he promised to build a school. When he recovered, he headed back to the United States to raise money. Over the years Greg has built many schools and had adventures, some harrowing, many tear-wrenching, in remote areas where sometimes there aren’t even bridges to carry the building materials across treacherous rivers to the building sites.
This is an inspiring book, and one which has been required reading for members of the US military including units being deployed to Afghanistan, as well as colleges and schools across our nation.
A Young Readers edition is also available. I think it would be motivating for our students, who have every type of device/activity designed to distract them from learning, to see how school is valued by other students their age in Pakistan. Enough to sit for hours on the cold ground, quietly scratching their studies into the dirt . . .