Regimented Lives: Coming of Age in a Madrassa
When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, many who joined the resistance arrived as schoolboys out of Pakistan. Religious academies there had prepared young bodies and souls for the deadly fight, but since September 11, 2001, these same madrassas stand accused of breeding suicidal extremists.
Students spend their days memorizing scripture, praying five times a day and sharing simple meals. In 2002, the government of Pervez Musharraf required the schools to add subjects such as math, science and English, but, as of yet, most madrassas do not offer the changes. The backbone of all learning, and the ultimate goal of each student, is to memorize the Koran.
In the current generation, Pakistan madrassas house and educate somewhere between 600,000 to 2 million students. Each year, thousands more graduate to become part of the Muslim clergy. Others, however, eagerly join the armed jihad, heading straight for insurgent training camps and on to any target that displeases their elders.
This is a look at the regimented daily lives of students growing up inside two madrassas in Lahore, Pakistan.