Islamic Schools Fill Pakistani Gaps—and Breed Militants

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 4, 2009 9:14 AM CDT
A boy read the Koran in a madrasa, or Islamic school, in Kabul, Afghanistan.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Pakistan’s education system is so dysfunctional that for many rural children, Islamic schools are the only option, the New York Times reports. The growth of madrasas, which teach little besides Koran memorization, is especially pronounced in places like southern Punjab, home to half of the country's at least 12,000 madrasas. Police there estimate that two-thirds of all suicide bombers have attended the schools.

“Education in Pakistan was left to the dogs,” says one professor. Only two-thirds of children attend public school, and a third of those drop out by fifth grade. Half the country can’t read or write. As schools fail, madrasas crop up, promoting a radical brand of Islam. “We are at the beginning of a great storm,” said one human-rights advocate. “It’s red alert for Pakistan.”