Stones Into Schools
The inspiring sequel to "Three Cups of Tea" follows Greg Mortenson into remote Afghanistan where he continues his quest to build schools.
Until this year, children living in one of the remotest corners of eastern Afghanistan could only dream of getting an education. No schools existed to nourish hungry young minds. But now, a simple wooden structure in the heart of a valley stands as a beacon of hope for a brighter future. Outside, its red door frame and windows extend a cheerful welcome. Inside, four classrooms with earthen floors can accommodate 200 students. Many will be girls. Perched at an altitude of 12,480 feet, this schoolhouse sits on the “roof of the world,” where transporting construction materials is virtually impossible. It represents one of the proudest achievements of Greg Mortenson, an American mountaineer-turned-humanitarian. His passion for educating girls has led to the building of 131 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, often against daunting odds and amid considerable danger.Skip to next paragraph
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Mortenson’s unexpected career change began in 1993. After failing to scale K2, the world’s second-highest mountain, he became lost. Exhausted, he eventually stumbled into the impoverished village of Korphe. There, residents shared their meager provisions and nursed him back to health. During his recovery, he watched as 82 children scratched their lessons with sticks in the dusty soil. In gratitude to the villagers for saving his life, Mortenson promised to return and build a school.
That pledge in Pakistan forms the heart of his runaway bestseller, “Three Cups of Tea,” which has sold 3 million copies around the world. Now his equally inspiring sequel, Stones into Schools, describes the challenge of building schools in Afghanistan. Calling young women “the single biggest potential agents of change in the developing world,” he describes this phenomenon as “the Girl Effect.” It echoes an African proverb he often heard as a child growing up in Tanzania, the son of teachers: “If you educate a boy, you educate an individual; but if you educate a girl, you educate a community.” He adds, “No other factor even comes close to matching the cascade of positive changes triggered by teaching a single girl how to read and write.
In military parlance, girls’ education is a ‘force multiplier’ – and in impoverished Muslim societies, the ripple effects of female literacy can be profound.” Statistics tell the story. According to the World Bank, a single year of primary education can increase a woman’s income 10 to 20 percent later in life. Other studies find that when girls receive a fifth-grade education, infant mortality drops. They also marry later and have fewer children.
But as Mortenson has discovered, simply giving girls a primary education is not enough. Almost no jobs exist for rural women in these developing countries. Some of them need higher education so they can become teachers, doctors, and maternal healthcare workers. As one shining example, Mortenson points to 22-year-old Shakila Khan, one of the first to graduate from his school in Hushe, a village south of Korphe. She will be the first locally educated female physician in an area of 300,000 people.