Education in Swat after militancy and Malala

Swatis love their schools
There is a renewed urge among the girls in Swat to get more education after the attack on Malala
By Tahir Ali

Following years of virtual militants’ sway, destruction of hundreds of schools, target killings and especially the October 9 attack on Malala Yousafzai, outsiders think of Swat as a place where female education has become a very difficult and risky enterprise. But apparently these incidents have further ignited the love for knowledge in the resilient Swatis.

According to a social worker in Madyan, who wished anonymity, there are no mentionable hurdles in the education sector but students and teachers somehow feel threatened. “There is a general perception that schools may be attacked, though there is no apparent threat. This fear is evident from the fact that NGOs have been asked to share their data/plans with authorities for security reasons. Polio workers are escorted by the police,” he says.

On October 15 last year, when the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government named the Government Girls Degree College, Saidu Sharif in Swat after Malala, the students of the college campaigned against it until the decision was withdrawn. Locals say they were not against Malala but they thought that associating her name with the college would make them susceptible to militants.

Dilawar Khan, an educationist in Mingora, Swat, sees no visible impact on the enrolment of students. “It has rather increased after the incident. As far as opposition to the renaming of college after Malala is concerned, it was pushed by some political elements and personal vendetta with her and her father rather than by security perception.”

Afzal Khan Lala, the famous local nationalist leader from Matta who remained in his hometown despite persistent attacks on him, seconded his thoughts.

“Swat already had good literacy rate irrespective of gender. In fact, the recognition and awards Malala received, has increased the urge for education and excellence among students. Malala was attacked for her advocacy for female education and for opposing the anti-knowledge agenda of militants. The opposition to naming a college after Malala was brought about by prejudice against her achievements and fear of becoming a target of militants,” he says.

According to Aftab Alam Advocate and ex-president Swat Bar Association, female education has got a fillip in post-militancy/Malala attack situation in Swat. “Her worldwide acclaim has encouraged other girls. It will not be out of place to point out that for the first time in Swat’s history, four female lawyers have been inducted in our fraternity and more such aspirants are in the pipeline,” he says.

“Swatis love books, schools and peace. Every visitor to the area will testify that Swatis are tolerant and progressive people and have nothing to do with militancy,” says a local, Tahir Shah.

Alam too cited jealousy, political considerations of some locals and fear of attack by militants on the college as reasons for opposing Malala college.

“The importance of girls’ education cannot be emphasised. There goes a saying “Mard paray, fard paray but zan paray tu watan paray (if a male reads, it is as if an individual reads but when a woman studies, it is as if a country reads), says Alam.

Nasir Khan, another Swat resident, says these factors had positive impact and rather boosted the morale and vision of the female students in the area. “There was some fear initially but now things have become normal. The students opposed renaming of the college because that would have made them potential target of militants,” he said.

The district education officer (female) Swat Dilshad Begum also says Malala is the pride of the area and has motivated others. “There is a renewed urge to get more education. The government has made education free up to the secondary level and is providing free books to students and stipends to girls. The KP government has given plenty of monetary benefits and incentives to all cadres of teachers. We are motivating and preparing them for the task through refresher courses. There cannot be a better opportunity. They should now ensure quality education to their students,” she says.

The strength of students has increased. “From 74904 female students in Swat in 2009, the number increased to around 118594 students in 2011. Data for this year is being finalised and it says that the female enrolment has gone up.”

There has been no security threat to any school of late. “The government has provided police officials where needed. Again, it has asked all the headmasters and principals of the schools to prepare special entry passes for all girl students. A teacher will be deputed to allow students into the schools after checking their cards,” she added.

Swat already had a good literacy rate for both boys and girls. The former ruler of Swat, Miangul Abdul Wadood, had opened a chain of schools for girls. But during their peak days, the Taliban first asked girls to observe strict purdah (veil) on their way to school. Later, they banned girl education and ordered girls’ schools to be shut down by January 15, 2009, and threatened to attack the students and teachers who didn’t follow the edict.

The Taliban had started their anti-girls education campaign in 2003 which continued for the next four years. They would announce and eulogise the female students on radio who gave up studying. So convincing was their appeal for the naive girls that in 2004, more than 200 girls of high school Charbagh asked for school leaving certificates and tore them there.

In May 2008, the Kabal GGHSS was the first school to be destroyed. With that began a trend that saw the destruction of over 400 schools in Swat. 217 of these were girls’ schools. 124 were fully destroyed and 93 of them were partially damaged. As of now 270 schools are fully or partially destroyed, Dilshad Begum informs. Even though the Swat of 2012 is way different from what it was in 2009, still with the militants saying they will continue their campaign, there is no room for complacency within the government circles.


…………………….

ORIGINAL TEXT OF THE ARTICLE AS IT WAS SENT OT THE NEWS.

Female education in Swat after Malala incident – situational analysis of past and present

By Tahir Ali

Following years of virtual militants’ sway, destruction of hundreds of schools, target killings and the October 9 attack on Malala Yousafzai there, outsiders think of Swat as a place where female education has become very a difficult and risky enterprise. But locals and officials say none have negatively impacted it and these have further ignited the love for knowledge in the benign but resilient Swatis, the fear of the hidden enemy and their attacks notwithstanding.

According to a social worker in Madyan, who wished anonymity, there were no mentionable hitches in the education sector but students and teachers somehow felt threatened. “There is a general perception that the school may be attacked though there is no apparent threat. This fear is evident from the fact that NGOs have been asked to share their data/plans with authorities for security reasons. Polio workers are escorted by the police,” he said.

On October 15 last year, when the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government named the Government Girls Degree College, Saidu Sharif in Swat after Malala, the students of the college campaigned against it until the decision was withdrawn. Locals say they were not against Malala but they thought that associating her name with the college would make them susceptible to militants.

Dilawar Khan, an educationist in Mingora Swat, said there had been no negative effect of attack on Malala on the enrolment of students. “It has rather increased after the incident. As far opposition to the renaming of college after Malala, it was pushed by some political elements and personal vendetta with her and her father rather than by security perception.”

Afzal Khan Lala, the famous local nationalist leader from Matta who remained in his hometown despite persistent attacks on him, seconded his thoughts.

“Swat already had good literacy ratio for both girls and boys. In fact the recognition and awards Malala received, boosted the urge for education and excellence on part of other students. Malala was attacked for her advocacy for female education and opposing the anti-knowledge agenda of militants. The opposition to Malala’s college was brought about by prejudice with her achievements and fear of becoming target of militants,” he said.

According to Aftab Alam Advocate, Ex-president Swat Bar Association, female education has got a fillip in post-militancy/Malala attack situation in Swat. “Her worldwide acclaim encouraged other girls. It will not be out of place to point out that for the first time in Swat history, 4 female lawyers have been inducted in our fraternity and more such aspirants are in the pipeline,” he said

“Swatis love books, schools and peace. Every visitor to the area will testify that Swatis are tolerant and progressive people and have nothing to do with militancy,” said a local, Tahir Shah.

Alam too cited jealousy, political considerations of some locals and fear of attack by militants’ attack on the college as reasons for opposing Malala college.

“The importance of girls’ education cannot be emphasized. There goes a saying “Mard paray, fard paray but zan paray tu watan paray (if a male reads, it is as if an individual reads but when a woman studies, it is as if a country reads). The more there is investment on female education, the better for humanity and the country. For this more schools, more resources like playground, laboratories, teachers) be provided in Swat, Malakand division and elsewhere,” he added.

Nasir Khan, another Swat resident, said these factors had positive impacts and rather boosted the morale and vision of the female students in the area. “There was some fear initially but now things have become normal. The students opposed the college renaming for that would have made them potential target for militants,” he said.

The district education officer (female) Swat Dilshad Begum also said Malala was a pride for the area and has motivated others. “There is a renewed urge to get more education on their part. The government has made education free up to the secondary level and providing free books to students and stipends to girls. All cadres of teachers have been given plenty of monetary benefits, incentives and up-gradation by the KP government. We are motivating and preparing them for the task through refresher courses. There cannot be a better opportunity. They should now ensure quality education to their students,” she said.

She said the strength of students has increased. “Against around 74904 female students in Swat in 2009, there were around 118594 students here in 2011. Data has been collected for this year and is being finalised according to which female enrolment has gone up.”

Talking about security threats and measures, she said there had been no security threats to any schools of late. “The government has provided police officials where needed. Again, it has asked all the head masters and principals of the schools to prepare special entry passes for all girls’ students. A teacher will be deputed to let allow students into the schools after checking their cards,” she added.

There are 507 primary, 55 middle, 27 high and 5 GHSSs in the public sector in Swat where around 118594 female students are taught by 2595 teachers. Of these, 96631 are primary students who are taught by 1845 teachers where the students- teacher ratio stands of 53:1 per cent against the required 40:1 in the province.

“We need more teachers to be able to provide education to the locals at their doorstep. We need some resources (vehicles etc) to improve teachers’ accessibility to schools on some routes. There are no high schools in some areas. Through the KP government’s Rokhana Pakhtunkhwa scheme, students in some areas are being financed by government for their education in some reputable private schools but we need more schools in certain areas. Besides, there are no IT teachers in our schools. Some other schools lack laboratories or equipments therein,” Dilshad Begum said.

Destruction and reconstruction of female schools

Swat enjoys good literacy rate for both boys and girls. Even the former ruler of Swat Miangul Abdul Wadood, had opened a chain of schools for females. But during their peak days, Taliban first asked girls students to observe strict purdah (veil) when they go to school. Later they banned girl education and ordered the girls schools to be shut down by January 15, 2009 and threatened to attack the students and teachers who didn’t follow the edict.

How the female students were psychologically hit by the order is evident form one of Malala diaries, she wrote for BBC, on January 3, 2009. She writes: “On my way from school to home I heard a man saying ‘I will kill you’. I hastened my pace and after a while I looked back if the man was still coming behind me. But to my utter relief he was talking on his mobile and must have been threatening someone else over the phone.”

The Taliban had started their anti-girls education campaign in 2003 which continued for next four years. They would announce and eulogise the female students on radio who gave up studying. So convincing was their appeal for the naive girls that in 2004, more than 200 girls of high school Charbagh asked for school leaving certificates and tore them there.

In May 2008, the Kabal GGHSS was the first school to be destroyed. With that began a trend that saw the destruction of over 400 schools in Swat. 217 of these were girls’ schools. 124 of these were fully and 93 of them were partially damaged. As of now 270 schools are fully or partially destroyed, Dilshad Begum informed.

Girls’ schools in backward and remote areas in Tehsil Kabal, Matta and other areas across the Swat River especially received the brunt of attacks. Shamozai, Koza Bandai, Khwazakhela, Sheen and Kharriri etc were other affected areas. Urban areas remained mostly safe then though they also saw destruction of some schools later.

“Hundreds of schools were destroyed by militants in Swat. They dynamited the buildings thereby depriving the students of education and light. The government girls’ higher secondary school (GGHHS) in our village was the only school that remained safe because the community protected it day and night. But the militants dynamited the boys’ school there which we didn’t expect as they were only after girls’ schools then,” Lala recalled.

“The destruction would have rendered their students uneducated for long. However the government opened schools in rented buildings, tents, and makeshift homes. In the meanwhile, the Pakistan army and the provincial reconstruction, rehabilitation and settlement authority started rebuilding the schools with support from Qatar Charity, UAE, EU, USAID and the like. Most of them have been reconstructed and rehabilitated. Only 33 remain to be reconstructed as of now,” Dilshad begum informed.

It could not be ascertained as to whether any girls’ schools are being used for residential purposes by the security forces or not.

Even though the Swat of 2012 is way different from it was in 2009. But with militants saying they will continue their campaign, there is no room for complacency within the government circles as it can encourage them to expand their hit and run campaign.

On Malala

Malala Yousafzai, the Swati teenager rose to glory after she wrote daily diaries for the BBC website with the pen-name of Gul Makai. She was later adjudged The Daughter of Pakistan by the National Assembly and has earned several fascinating distinctions that filled others with envy: She won Pakistan’s first peace award; was the Herald’s, person of the year; was nominated for International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011; was awarded the 2012 Tipperary International Peace Award from Ireland, which was awarded to Benazir Bhutto in 2007 as well; she stood at number 6, ahead of Obama amongst Foreign Policy magazine’s 100 influential world thinkers; she was named ‘Young Person of the Year’ by The Times; a bill has been introduced in US Congress that seeks Congressional Gold Medal for Malala; She is suggested as candidate for the Noble Peace Prize; the list continues to expand.

On December 10 last year, President Asif Ali Zardari Monday announced a 10-million-dollar donation for the “Malala Fund for Girls’ Right to Education” which will ensure that all girls go to school by 2015 in line with UN Millennium goals.

According to the Education for All Global Monitoring Report released by UNESCO, Pakistan has around 5.1 million out of school children, the second highest worldwide, with 63 percent of these girls.

About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

3 Responses to Education in Swat after militancy and Malala

  1. Pingback: Adorkable: The Influential Generation « A Cultural World

  2. Pingback: In Defense of #Malala | The Case Of A Dying Nation

  3. Pingback: Adorkable: The Influential Generation | Dani's Trekking Bookshelf

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