Some of you may be following the recent controversy over alleged fraudulent claims by Greg Mortenson, Executive Director and founder of the Central Asia Institute (CAI) and author of Three Cups of Tea. First aired on 60 Minutes, Mr. Mortenson, who claims to have built schools and supported educational initiatives in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan, has been accused of mishandling the financials of his organization, monetarily benefiting from his book proceeds as well sensationalizing and at times flat out lying about his personal experiences.
Without taking sides or passing judgements over this man's work, or the education that is or is not happening in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan, we would like to share the following article and some of our own thoughts about the challenges of international development work and providing sustainable quality education to under-served people in developing countries. This article was written in direct response to the ongoing outrage over the Three Cups of Tea scandal.
Click here to read the article:
Three Cups of BS, written by Alanna Shaikh
The aftermath of this scandal coming to light could have significant consequences (both good and bad) for all international development projects. And those of us who are focusing on education may feel the brunt of those consequences (whether that is an increase of hoops we have to jump through or a smaller flow of international aid money.) The point we would like to make, however, is that all of us who work in this field should not be afraid to talk about the problems we face, the difficulties we have to overcome on a daily basis and the time that it takes to really make a program succeed for the children and people that it is serving. Development work is not easy (even when we might have a lot of money to spend) and we should always celebrate the small achievements. But simultaneously, we have to be aware of the dangers; whether that is the misuse of money, growing too large too quickly or trusting the wrong people. These problems can, of course, happen anywhere at any time, but with international programs, where programmatic and fiscal oversight is often less strictly enforced, we ourselves have to be vigilant of the risks without falling into the traps. We should impose our own oversight, and be honest with ourselves and with our supporters about exactly how we are making a difference and what we are doing with the money.
This controversy should not dissuade us from doing the hard work, from looking for support from the outside or from feeling shamed into hiding information. In fact, it should do the opposite. And maybe this can serve as a wake up call to the rest of the world about how hard our jobs really are.
To all of you international workers out there - Keep fighting the good fight!