Sunday, October 10, 2010

Homeward Bound

I woke up to the call to prayer as is the custom. Scooted down to the kitchen to make tea and went out to the garden to watch the light come up on the great screen of Central Asian Sky. The stars were still out and the constellations filled the heavens. In a matter of hours I will be headed west as this is my last day here and I will leave when it is barely Monday. There is much to do, like write reports, print pictures, visit the neighbors, take a walk and as always drink tea. How can a month vanish in an instant? I have many people to thank among them my dean for making the space for me to come here, my colleague for teaching my class and to Fulbright for giving me the opportunity of a life time.

To adequately reflect on this experience will take months. In the short run however, I am ever more convinced that if we are to have any semblance of grace on this planet, it will come through education. Not just any education that dishes out a standard fare of curriculum and copy books but one that encourages curiosity and critical thought to flourish. We need fewer ideologues, fewer pundits, fewer absolutists on either side of critical issues. Rather we need an education that opens rather than molds young minds and one that makes possibility for clarity of thought and measured action a probability instead of an outlier.

The unsung heroes in this endeavor are many. The great classroom teachers around the world who work with little or no resources. The aid workers some of whom have lost their lives in their attempts to build schools and infrastructure that make education possible in arenas for which power is dependent on ignorance and domination. There are the closet visionaries disguised in suits commonly worn by bureaucrats who are educational alchemists of commitment mediation and inspiration. They are positioned in unlikely places and represent a range of influence such as our Chief of Party, the young ex climber turned USAID education officer, and the rector of the Pedagogical University.

Individuals can and do make a difference. Such as, the program director of the IPD in Khorog who simply goes about his business with a quiet sense of humor never wavering for an instant from his mission - to provide exemplary support to teachers in his region. Under his leadership a minuscule band of individuals have systematically consolidated resources, applied text-book level analysis of their programs and stayed the course. They know exactly what they are doing and where they want to go in the future. As a team they are like the land cruisers they travel in – obstacles in the road are not barriers but opportunities for creative problem solving. Leadership is a consistent sustainable and collaborative vision.

On Tuesday I will meet my class after almost 32 hours of travel. I hope that I will still have the dust of this place on my shoes as a reminder of possibility and my own privilege. I also hope that I will be able to convey to them how much the world needs them. There is so much to be done and due to the accident of birth they have all the tools needed to be a force for good. Inshallah they will succeed.

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