Pakistani Education Affects American Security

Pakistan is a Muslim nation in Asia, sandwiched between India and Afghanistan.  China, Iran and the Arabian Sea touch Pakistan’s outer edges.  More than 199 million people live in Pakistan.  Islam is the country’s official religion—96.4 percent are Muslims; Hindus and Christians are about 3.6 percent. (CIA)

Pakistan’s schools are run by the government, but they are not free.  These schools only exist in city areas.  Many remote villages have “ghost” schools, which are empty buildings with no teacher.  Teachers are paid, but there is no accountability, and therefore, no teacher attendance.

Pakistan spends little on its educational system, only 2.5 percent of its gross domestic product (CIA, 2013), leaving more than 24 million children unschooled. (AFP) This is the second highest rate in the world after Nigeria.  In contrast, the United States spent 5.2 percent of its gross domestic product on education in 2011. (CIA)

Only 57.9 percent of Pakistan’s people can read. (CIA)

Why should this matter to America?

What happens in Pakistan affects American security.

Robin and Mike Gordon

Robin and Mike Gordon

Mike Gordon of Shining Light International developed an entire school system in the Gilgit area of northern Pakistan.  He states, “One of the necessary components of securing our borders and combating terrorism is to educate the poorest, most oppressed people.  This prevents radical Islam.”

Mike Gordon and his wife, Robin, a school principal, set out in 2001 to help the oppressed, migrant Christian population living in Gilgit and surrounding areas.  This group is under threat of persecution and has been completely illiterate, until now.  Today, these children are grown, in college, and are the first generation of migrant Pakistani Christians to read their Bible.  Some intend to return to Shining Light schools as teachers themselves.  Others will go on to enter government, the military, or another area of employment. 

More Shining Light schools have opened, enabling other poor minority groups to attend.  One such group is the Gujjars, an Islamic semi-nomadic people close to the border of Afghanistan. They live on the fringes of society—without running water, health-care or education.  A very high percentage of the Gujjars in Gilgit-Baltistan are illiterate.  

They could easily be radicalized by radical Islam. Shining Light now educates 600 Gujjar children from three villages and expects to enter two more villages by the end of the year. 

Shining Light employs 60 people, 50 of which are teachers, some (8) who live and work in remote areas. The organization, a non-profit 501c3, provides scholarships to the needy, even for those who go on to university.

Shining Light education is taught in English and is conceptual.  Robin Gordon’s expertise has provided necessary materials, making the school highly-valued.  In contrast, education in Pakistani government schools is taught by rote (repetition).  Western education encourages students to think, write, and understand concepts.  Rote education is simply memorization and regurgitation.

Islam, by law, is taught in Pakistani schools, whether government or private.  Christian students may opt-out with an ethics class or other appropriate elective.

Poor students without access to government schools or a program like Shining Light, attend the madrassas.  These are Islamic religious schools which teach the Koran using rote memorization.  The Koran is written and spoken in its original Arabic language, but the primary languages of Pakistan are Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Saraiki and Urdu (official).  Students rely on Islamic teaching for understanding of the Koran, but there is also no regulation of the madrassas and what is being taught.

A madrassa education is free and is the primary form of education in Pakistan.  They are in every Sunni Islam village and the cities in Pakistan. 3.5 million children attend more than 20,000 madrassas.

Mike Gordon adds, “This kind of teaching, rote memorization, has infiltrated the government education system.”

Tashfeen Malik, the female shooter in the San Bernardino massacre, attended the Al-Huda Institute, a madrassa in Pakistan. 

There is growing evidence that these Pakistani madrassas are recruitment centers for Islamic radicalization from the poorer and middle classes.  There is also evidence that many of the madrassas are funded by Saudi Arabia.

Madrassas in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan created the jihadists in the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Today the jihadists are joining the Islamic Caliphate, also known as ISIS.

Madrassas are associated with local mosques, an Islamic place of worship.  There are 3186 mosques in the United States (Saltomatic) and there are several Islamic schools or madrassas, as well. “80 percent of the 1,200 mosques operating in the US were constructed after 2001, more often than not with Saudi financing." (World Affairs)

Pakistanis and other Islamic nationals are attempting to cross United States’ borders illegally, as in the case of Javaid Muhammad (May 17, 2016) and legally as did Tashfeen Malik on a fiancée visa.

To begin to keep America safe, the gaps must be filled.  Those who support radicalization cut off, and organizations like Shining Light International, supported.

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Veteran Homeschool Parent Stacy Efinger: Keeping Her Rights

Stacy Efinger and her Children

Stacy Efinger and her Children

Approximately 1.77 million children in the United States were educated at home during the 2011-2012 school year.  In 2007, the number was 1.5 million.  Home school education is on the rise. (U.S. Dept of Education)

In the State of Florida the homeschool movement is growing.

During the 2012-2013 school year, the State of Florida had 75,801 children registered in home education programs. (Kids Count Date Center)

On Florida’s Treasure Coast, 495 children were registered in Martin County and 1,369 in St. Lucie County.  Since 2013, the number in Martin County has risen to 646 and 1,430 in St. Lucie County (August, 2015).

Why is this?

Stacy Efinger, a trained teacher and veteran homeschool mother has spent 15 years overseeing and teaching her children’s education.  She is a modern pioneer in the Florida home school movement.

It wasn’t until Stacy began attending church at Stuart Nazarene (now New Hope Fellowship ) 20 years ago, that she even heard about homeschooling as an option.  Approximately 30 percent of the church’s families were educating their children themselves.

Stacy was intrigued.  During her college internship teaching kindergarten, first and second grades, she began to think to herself, “I could do this with my own children.”

The next year, Stacy attended an annual home school convention in Orlando and then shortly afterward, her first child, Jonas, was born.

In the 1960s, ‘70s and early ‘80s, homeschool education was considered radical and illegal; homeschool parents, considered by almost every state as criminals, had to go to court to fight for their civil rights.  (Home School Legal Defense Association)

Dr. Jolene Oswald, former Spring Arbor University professor of elementary education was part of the home school education defense.  She regularly attended court hearings, speaking on the need for and value of children being educated at home.

In 1985, the homeschool movement began to boom around the country.

Originally, homeschool education was a pioneer effort during the development of the United States, beginning at Plymouth Colony with the Pilgrims

Parents schooled their children in sod homes, log cabins and beside campfires as the Federal government encouraged families to move west and settle the lands.  Often, the only books used were a beginning reader and a family Bible. Made famous in her Little House books, was Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose younger years were under her mother, Caroline’s tutelage.  Other famous home-educated individuals include 10 former Presidents (John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt) writers (Pearl Buck, Louisa May Alcott, J.R.R. Tolkien) and most recently football’s Tim Tebow.

The history of homeschool education has shown that it has benefited not just individuals, but also the building of the United States of America.   It is no wonder that homeschool education is no longer considered illegal, but a fundamental right of the country’s citizens.

Homeschool education has many benefits:

·         No wasted time disciplining unruly children

·         Students may work at their own pace—often moving ahead of their peer group.

·         No teaching to the test—home school students study a broader range of subjects and are required to remember all that they study because their testing (Terranova) is a more rigorous general knowledge test.

·         Religious or moral instruction can be included in the curriculum.

·         Children with special needs

·         Parents are not comfortable with some school subjects being taught, ie. sex education.

·         Phonics, spelling and handwriting or cursive are still taught in homeschool education, whereas they are not taught in public schools any longer

Stacy Efinger’s son, Jonas, now 18 years old, works two jobs and has been dual-enrolled with homeschool education and at Indian River State College.  He states that home-education gives parents flexibility with curriculum and he may go as fast or as slowly as he wishes.  For example, Jonas finished one year of algebra in less than two months. 

Jonas is a typical young man; he enjoys hunting and robotics, and went to an international championship competition in St. Louis, Missouri with a local SPAM Robotics club.   He also volunteers, and has given seven years to the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary.  Jonas plans to attend the University of Western Florida and pursue a degree in artifact preservation. He is a fan of history, much like his father, Kurt Efinger, who is a professor of history at Indian River State College.

To the children, Jonas adds this:  “Homeschooling was worth it.  I had more opportunities to try things; I got to go out and see different people every day.  My range of experiences has been much broader.”  Jonas has even traveled to Israel in the Middle East, seeing the ancient sites firsthand.

Though homeschooling is no longer illegal and the State of Florida has become friendly toward the movement, it is still a challenge and a commitment.  Stacy considers the opportunity to teach her own three children a privilege.  She loves being with them and they enjoy being with each other.  The Efinger home is a family-oriented home that has produced a lifetime love of learning. 

At a time when American schools are reacting with society’s change, their daily events filling evening newscasts with violence, homeschool parents are continuing to help build and rebuild our country, producing highly educated and happy young adults who seek to add positively to the Treasure Coast, Florida and even the United States. 

It is important that the rights of Americans to educate their children continue within their counties and states.  This is historically, a fundamental and necessary right that has been time-tested more than 400 years.

In eight more years, Stacy Efinger’s youngest child will graduate high school; Stacy though, expects to remain in the movement as a teacher who trains other parents to do what she has done.

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© 2015 "Hometown Heroes" Kelly Jadon