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Ruination by Taliban: Determined, girls want to continue education

By Fazal Khaliq

SWAT: The education system in Swat lies crippled after nearly three years of systematic destruction by the Taliban during which one school after the other was bombed or torched, leaving students in the valley with ruins to studies in. The Taliban’s anti-education campaign was particularly vicious against the schooling of girls .

“I looked forward to getting up every day and going to school. I love to watch TV progammes in which I saw doctors treating patients because that is what I wanted to be when I grow up,” says Laiba, a nine-year-old student from Matta Tehsil.

But Laiba’s dreams were shattered when the Mullah Fazlullah-led Taliban took the scenic valley hostage, leaving her with no choice but to drop out. “They destroyed our schools and threatened our families,” she narrated her ordeal. Mullah Fazlullah spoke against women education on his FM radio and told people that it is a sin for girls to go to schools and read books.

“Ms Fatima, my science teacher, was my role model,” said Laiba sharing her story with The Express Tribune. “I also loved English but science was my preferred subject.”

But, for some odd reasons people in our area consider giving education to women ‘un-Islamic’; they say the only job of a woman is to get married and sit at home, Laiba said.

During the insurgency Laiba and her family shifted to Sakhra, where she and her siblings regularly read books. “My family did not give into the Taliban, they always encouraged me to read,” she said. The militants shattered the dreams of many girls like Laiba in the area as they blew up, torched and looted most schools.

The destruction of schools is not the only tragedy which has befallen the children of Swat. Their innocent lives have been exposed to unimaginable brutality, from displacement from their homes to the killing of their parents, which has left them psychologically traumatised with permanent scars on their lives. The destroyed schools will ultimately be rebuilt, but it would be difficult for the children to erase the memories of what came before their innocent eyes.

Bit by bit these students are picking the pieces and going back to school. This determination must be met with the help of government and non-government organisations by rebuilding schools. Many schools have not yet been reconstructed in the area.

Militancy and floods hit education in Swat hard, bringing the education of hundreds to a standstill. The militancy also had grave psychological effects on children. Houses were blown up, family members killed and children had no choice but to face the violence that had enveloped society. But after the military operation against local militants in 2009 life is returning to normalcy.

“I am very happy with the current peace in our area,” Laiba said. “I can now go to school without any fear and I request the government to reconstruct all the schools as soon as possible.”

She is optimistic about her future and determined to become a doctor no matter what the consequences, “If the militants come back, I will stand my ground, I will not stop my education and I will fight their evil designs.”

Source: The Express Tribune


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