More than 100 school children were killed as Taliban gunman stormed a Pakistani Military school in Peshawar. 500 students and teachers were taken hostage by 10 terrorists during the massacre. This is perhaps the worst incident in Pakistan's history of militant attacks. This horrific event is another blow for the children of Pakistan who have faced a constant battle for their right to a good education.
The struggle for a good education is mirrored in the countries academic statistics. According to UNESCO, The illiteracy percentage in youths between the ages of 15 to 24 years is 72 percent. In a list of 221 countries across the world Pakistan ranked 180, ranking below Iran, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Burma. It is thought that 25 million children are out of school.
In certain parts of Pakistan children are either forced in to Islamic madressas that barely provide the basic curriculum and enforce an incredibly warped perception of Islam. And if they are lucky enough to receive a good education, they live in fear of attacks like this as the Taliban continue to repress 'domination by Western culture.' They fear western education will create a generation of 'Macaulay's children' a "class of interpreters...Indian in colour, English in taste." This very fear pushed the Taliban to shoot young Malala Yousafzai for her beliefs in equal education for all. By promoting the education system being used to Westernise the Swat valley, she was on the wrong side of the 'good fight.'
The Taliban have always claimed that they have nothing against education, but they only believe in establishing an Islamic system, which apparently does not include the work of great minds like Al Khwarizmi (father of Algebra) and Omar Khayyám, Great Muslim Mathematicians who have contributed to the western education system. The Taliban often defend their practice of blowing up schools by claiming that the Pakistani army also uses them for bases. If that is really the case what future can the children of Pakistan truly expect? According to eye witness reports a teacher was literally set on fire with gasoline as the children were forced to watch. Not only have children and parents alike been terrified by the thought of even going to school, the future teachers of this country have probably taken a u-turn in their career direction as well.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said: "The news from Pakistan is deeply shocking. It's horrifying that children are being killed simply for going to school."
The leaders of Pakistan have always overlooked the potential of its youth, and had different decisions been made in Pakistan's history then perhaps the terrorists of today could have been the productive members of a far more progressive Pakistan. Despite the Taliban's attempts as portraying their followers as highly educated individuals, the majority of their foot soldiers are lower middle class youths, often denied a proper education, and with no aspirations or opportunities the question arises, what can young men between the ages of 18-30 do with their lives? They do not have the financial resources to leave the country or pay for private education, and with no good qualifications the idea of a decent job is impossible. So they are left with only one option. Often militants groups promise not just spiritual recompense for the young men who join their groups but financial security for their families as well. In some areas the men have no choice but to join. Had they been given a better a chance at a proper education they would never have been tempted to be led down this path.
According to reports published by the UN It is thought that half of all Pakistan's primary school- aged children, and almost three quarters of the nations young girls are not enrolled in school. In Malala's home province alone, it is thought that more than 750 schools have been destroyed by the Taliban since 2008 (this was recorded last year we can only assume the number has increased since then). And due to various laws and ordinances, children from religious minority groups are often denied further education and are kicked out of various colleges and universities. This has inevitably led to a huge brain drain in Pakistan where many of the country's brightest minds have migrated to other countries in search of greener pastures.
This year Malala became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. She once said: "I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists. I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me I would not shoot him."
After this attack her vision seems like a distant dream at best. If different decisions had been made in Pakistan's history, this may have been possible but for now the future of good education in Pakistan remains bleak, if the leaders of this country invested more in the their education sector then perhaps the Taliban wouldn't have been able to recruit so many young men into their initiative. The bravery of the youth of this country should be commended despite these obstacles they continue to push on and fight their own war against ignorance and extremism. Let's hope education can recover from this terrible blow.