In 2015 there was a wave of outrage, crossing Pakistan’s national borders. The Taliban created a bloody rampage in a school in the province’s capital, Peshawar, killing 141 people including 132 uniformed children in what is being billed as the group’s single deadliest attack to date,
In their war against western, secular education, which the group has denounced as “un-Islamic”, the Pakistan Taliban have destroyed over 838 schools between 2009 and 2012, claimed responsibility for the near-fatal shooting of teenaged education advocate Malala Yousafzai who spoke out publicly against the prohibition on the education of girls that was imposed by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP; sometimes called Pakistani Taliban). This Taliban issued numerous edicts against the right of women and girls to receive proper schooling. And today, notwithstanding their promises, it seems they are going to ban again any formal education for girls. Though they say it is only for a short period until they will have found out how to organise an education possibility for female Afghanis.
It may be strange to our ears to hear several Afghanis now want to cross the Pakistan border to find more safety. But perhaps they do know much better the intentions of the Afghan Taliban than we can ever imagine.
Young girls may also find some possibility to study in Pakistan, where the country isin a better condition than five years ago and where alternatives to terrorism and militancy bore some good fruits.
The Citizens Foundation (TFC), a local non-profit, busied itself with a pledge to build 141 Schools for Peace, one in the name of each person who lost their life on that terrible day.
“We dedicate this effort to the children of Pakistan, their right to education and their dreams of a peaceful future,”
said Syed Asaad Ayub Ahmad, CEO of TCF, in an email launching the campaign.
“With the formidable challenges facing the nation, we passionately believe that only education has the power to enlighten minds, instil citizenship and unleash the potential of every Pakistani,”
While armed groups and government forces answer violence with more of the same, the active citizens who comprise TCF want to shift focus away from bloodshed and onto longer-term solutions for the future of this deeply troubled country.
The charity, which began in 1995, has completed 1,000 school ‘units’, typically a primary or secondary institution capable of accommodating up to 180 pupils, all built from scratch in the most impoverished areas of some 100 towns and cities across Pakistan.
The 7,700 teachers employed by the NGO go through a rigorous training programme before placement, and the organisation maintains a strict 50:50 male-female ratio for the 145,000 students who are now benefitting from a free education, according to TCF Vice President Zia Akhter Abbas.
In a country where 25.02 million school-aged children – of which 13.7 million (55 percent) are girls – do not receive any form of education, experts say TCF’s initiative may well act as a game changer in the years to come, especially given that the government spends just 2.1 percent of its GDP on education.
“Our job is to ensure that wherever we have our schools, there are no out-of-school children, especially girls,”
“We believe the change in society will come automatically once these educated and enlightened children grow up into responsible adults.”
He added that the schools are designed to
“serve as a beacon of light restricting the advance of extremism in our society.”