Monday, October 21, 2013

Malala Inspires School Enrollment Surge in Pakistan

Malala Yousufzai has inspired about 200,000 children, including 75,000 girls, to enroll in primary schools in Pakistan's Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KP) province, according to the provincial education minister.

Yousafzai's story "is certainly helping us to promote education in the tribal belt," Muhammad Atif Khan, the province's education minister, told Bloomberg News. "Education is a matter of death and life. We can't solve terrorism issues without educating people." KP government has raised school funding by 30% to accommodate the surge.

Pakistan's literacy gender gap of 29% is among the worst in the world. KP province, which includes Malala's home in Swat Valley, is the main contributor to it.

In spite of the right-wing backlash against Malala's recognition in America and Europe, it seems that little girls and their parents see Malala as a great role model. Both private and public schools are seeing a flood of new students, according to Ahmad Shah, the chairman of Private Schools Management Association, an organization that represents 500 schools in the area. Bloomber reports that his school has seen a 10 percent rise in admissions this year, the most since the Taliban's ouster. "In our schools, girls are saying I want to be like Malala," Shah said. "They are relating themselves with her in many ways."

Pakistan Education Gender Gap Source: Al-Jazeera

Pakistani mass media have also joined in the campaign by showing Malala as a positive role model. GeoTV has extensively covered events surrounding Malala's  Nobel prize nomination and book launch, including her many interviews in English, Pashto and Urdu.

Burka Avenger, a new Geo TV animated show, features a female teacher superhero who uses the power of books and pens to defeat opponents to girls education. In her speeches, Malala has repeatedly talked about the power of the books and the pen to defeat terrorists in Pakistan.

Malala Yousufzai is a great role model for Pakistani girls. Regardless of the motivations of the West in promoting her, it's good to see the positive impact from the Malala phenomenon. Let's hope it helps dramatically reduce the high number of out-of-school children in Pakistan.

Here's a video of a discussion about Malala's impact and other current topics:

Israr Gandapur murder; Malala and child education in Pakistan; Iran-US negotiations from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Viewpoint from Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discusses with Riaz Haq (, Sabahat Ashraf (iFaqeer;  and Ali Hasan Cemendtaur Israr Gandapur’s murder over Eid and PTI’s continued sympathies for Taliban; Malala Yousafzai’s rise to fame and its impact on child education in Pakistan; and Iran-US negotiations.

This show was recorded at 1 pm PST on Thursday, October 17, 2013.

وزیر قانون اسرار گنڈاپور پہ خودکش حملہ اور گنڈاپور کی شہادت۔ طالبان کے لے تحریک انصاف کی حمایت جاری ہے، ملالہ یوسف زءی کی شہرت اور اس کا اثر پاکستانی بچوں پہ، ایران اور امریکہ کے مذاکرات، فراز درویش، ریاض حق، صباحت اشرف، آءی فقیر، علی حسن سمندطور، ڈبلیو بی ٹی ٹی وی، ویو پواءنٹ فرام اوورسیز، امریکہ میں پاکستانی، سلیکن ویلی، سان فرانسسکو بے ایریا

पाकिस्तान, कराची, विएव्पोइन्त फ्रॉम ओवरसीज , फ़राज़ दरवेश, रिअज़ हक , सबाहत अशरफ , ई फ़क़ीर, अली हसन समंदतौर, दब्लेव बी टी टीवी, सिलिकॉन वेली, कैलिफोर्निया, फार्रुख शाह खान, फार्रुख खान

পাকিস্তান,  করাচী,  ক্যালিফর্নিয়া, সিলিকোন ভ্যালি, ভিয়েব্পৈন্ট ফরম ওভারসিস

Виещпоинт фром Оверсеас, Цалифорния, Карачи, Пакистан, Фараз Дарвеш, Риац Хак, Сабахат Ашраф, И-фаяеер, Али Хасан Цемендтаур 

، رياض  حق ، إي  فقير ، صباحات  أشرف ، علي حسن  سمند طور ، فيوبوينت فروم  أفرسيس ، كاليفورنيا، كراتشي  ، باكستان ، 

പാക്കിസ്ഥാൻ  കറാച്ചി  കാലിഫോര്ണിയ  വീവ്പൊഇന്റ് ഫ്രം ഓവർസീസ്‌ ഫരശ് ദര്വേഷ്  രിഅശ് ഹഖ്  അലി ഹസാൻ സമണ്ട്ടൂർ  ഐ ഫഖീർ  സബഹറ്റ് അഷ്‌റഫ്‌ 

પાકિસ્તાન,  કરાચી,  ફરાઝ દરવેશ,  રીઅઝ હક, સબાહત અશરફ, અલી હસન સમાંન્દ્તૌર, કાલીફોર્નિયા, વિએવ્પોઇન્ત ફ્રોમ ઓવેર્સેઅસ 

पाकिस्तान, कराची, विएव्पोइन्त फ्रोम ओवेर्सेअस, कॅलिफोर्निया, फराज दरवेश, रिअश हक़, साबाहत अश्रफ, ई फ़क़ॆर, आली हसन समंद तूर

פקיסטן, קראצ'י, קליפורניה, הטליבאן, האיסלאם.

Audio of the program is here:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Female Literacy Lags Far Behind in South Asia

Burka Avenger

Out-of-School Children in Pakistan

Malala Moment

Viewpoint From Overseas-Vimeo 

Viewpoint From Overseas-Youtube


ImranPTI said...

It is due to "Parho or Zindagi Badlo" Campaign started by Imran Khan himself about 40 days ago...PTI are the pioneers of such positive changes. All other monkeys jump on the bandwagon afterwards to take credit.

Riaz Haq said...

ImranPTI: "It is due to "Parho or Zindagi Badlo" Campaign started by Imran Khan himself about 40 days ago...PTI are the pioneers of such positive changes. All other monkeys jump on the bandwagon afterwards to take credit."

So you know better than the KP education minister, himself a PTI man, who attributes it to Malala?
And the parents? and the school association chair?

Riaz Haq said...

#KP's economy worsening on #PTI's watch. Investors, businesses leaving in droves. #Pakistan #Taliban #TTP #Imrankhan

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report on private school enrollment growth in Pakistan:

Pakistan is seeing a surge in private schools, a trend some find hopeful in a country where the government education system is decrepit and the other alternative is religious schools, known here as madrasas, which offer little education beyond memorizing the Quran and are seen as one source of Islamic militancy.

The U.S., for one, says it plans to invest in private schools as part of a multibillion-dollar aid package designed to erode extremism in the nuclear-armed country battered by Taliban attacks.

"The quality of education in the public sector is deteriorating day by day," said T.M. Qureshi, a Ministry of Education official. "When there's a vacuum of quality, someone will fill it."

According to UNESCO figures, Pakistan spends 2.9 percent of its gross domestic product on education, slightly less than India's 3.2 percent and well below the U.S.'s 5.2 percent.

One reason education has historically been a low priority for Pakistani governments, experts say, is that the governing elite can afford to send their children to the best private schools or to academies abroad. Another, the experts say, is the feudal structures in the rural areas that give landowners an incentive to keep farm workers uneducated and submissive.

Only around half of Pakistani adults can read, schools often lack basic amenities like water, teachers get away with absences, and the bureaucracy is cumbersome.

But since the mid-1990s, small, inexpensive private schools, once an urban phenomenon, have been sprouting in earnest in the poorer countryside, offering relatively affordable tuition, according to a 2008 World Bank report.

Between 2000 and 2005, their number grew from 32,000 to 47,000, the report said. More recent Pakistani government statistics put the figure at more than 58,000. Around one-third of Pakistan's 33 million students attend a range of private schools, far more than the 1.6 million in the 12,000 madrasas.

The private schools tend to outperform their government peers academically, though generally speaking, standards are low across the board, said Tahir Andrabi, an economics professor at Pomona College in California who has studied the trend.

In the big picture, proponents of private schools echo the argument for charter schools in the U.S. — that they can make schools better and children more educated, and in Pakistan's case dent poverty and the appeal of extremism.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of William Dalrymple's Op Ed on Malala in NY Times:

Malala’s extraordinary bravery and commitment to peace and the education of women is indeed inspiring. But there is something disturbing about the outpouring of praise: the implication that Malala is a lone voice, almost a freak event in Pashtun society, which spans the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan and is usually perceived as ultraconservative and super-patriarchal.

Few understand the degree to which the stereotypes that bedevil the region — images of terrorist hide-outs and tribal blood feuds, religious fanatics and the oppression of women — are, if not wholly misleading, then at least only one side of a complex society that was, for many years, a center of Gandhian nonviolent resistance against British rule, and remains home to ancient traditions of mystic poetry, Sufi music and strong female leaders.

While writing a history of the first Western colonial intrusion into the region, I heard many stories about the woman Malala Yousafzai is named after: Malalai of Maiwand. For most Pashtuns, the name conjures up not a brave teenage supporter of education, but an equally brave teenage heroine who turned the tide of a crucial battle during the second Anglo-Afghan war.

Malalai does not appear in any British account of the Battle of Maiwand, but if Afghan sources are accurate, her actions led to the British Empire’s greatest defeat in a pitched battle in the course of the 19th century.

According to Pashtun oral tradition, when, on July 27, 1880, a British force was surprised by a much larger Pashtun levy, the British initially made use of their superior artillery and drove back the Afghans. It was only when Malalai took to the battlefield that things changed. Seeing her fiancé cowed by a volley of British cannon fire, she grabbed a fallen flag — or in some versions her veil — and recited the verse: “My lover, if you are martyred in the Battle of Maiwand, I will make a coffin for you from the tresses of my hair.” In the end, it was Malalai who was martyred, and her grave became a place of pilgrimage.

Malalai was not alone. The more I read the Pashtun sources for the Anglo-Afghan wars, rather than the British ones, the more I saw that prominent women were in the story.

The Afghan monarch at the turn of the 19th century, Shah Shuja ul-Mulk — a direct tribal forebear of President Hamid Karzai — was married to a Pashtun woman, Wafa Begum, who most contemporaries judged to be the real power behind the monarchy. (The British praised her for her “coolness and intrepidity.”) When the shah was overthrown and imprisoned in Kashmir, his wife negotiated his release in return for his most valuable possession, the Koh-i-Noor diamond, the largest in the world.

She then played a crucial role in freeing him from a second captivity in Lahore. She helped organize an elaborate escape plan involving a tunnel, a sewer, a boat and a succession of horses. Wafa Begum later charmed the British into giving her asylum, thus providing members of her dynasty with the base from which they would eventually return to their throne in Kabul. She died in 1838, just before the British put her husband back on the Afghan throne. Many have attributed the ultimate failure of that enterprise to the absence of her strategic good sense.
We owe it to Malala and many others who share her ideals to refuse to allow the radicals to win the battle of perceptions. It is, and has always been, possible to be a Muslim Pashtun and to embrace nonviolence and a prominent role for women in public affairs. Indeed the greatest weapon we have in the war on terrorism in that region is the courage and the decency of the vast proportion of the people who live there.

Anonymous said...

HopeWins Junior said...

An inconvenient truth?

Literacy rate for girls stands at a modest 10.5% compared to 36.66% for boys despite considerable expenditure incurred by the FATA Secretariat to improve education statistics in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Frontier Regions (FRs).
According to the Annual Development Programme 2013-14 for Fata, Rs3.68 billion has been allocated for education, of which Rs2.8 billion is being used for 184 ongoing schemes while Rs877 million will be used for 33 new schemes. But the literacy rate for the area still stands at only 24.5% even in wake of significant expenditures made by the FATA Education Department.
According to the FATA Education Atlas 2011-12 report released by Directorate of Education FATA Education Management Information System, the proportion of girls enrolled in educational institutions stands at 7.5% in South Waziristan, 4.26% in North Waziristan, 21.03% in Kurram Agency, 4.75% in Bajaur, 5.72% in Mohmand Agency, 5.15% in Orakzai Agency and 16.13% in Khyber Agency.
Similarly, the proportion stands at 5.88% in FR DI Khan, 1.81% in FR Lakki Marwat, 2.28% in FR Tank, 1.07% in FR Bannu, 24.09% in FR Kohat and 16.66% in FR Peshawar.

Anonymous said...

what is the unemployment rate? If market is flooded with young people, but there are no jobs, how will it play out?

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "what is the unemployment rate? If market is flooded with young people, but there are no jobs, how will it play out?"

Pakistan led job growth in South Asia from 2000-2010.

The percentage of women in work force has doubled from 11% in 2000 to 22% in 2010 in Pakistan.

Education is the ladder that helps men and women climb out of poverty into middle class.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's teenager Malala Yousufzai wins Nobel Peace Prize shared with Indian children rights activist Kailash Satyarthi:

Reaching across gulfs of age, gender, faith, nationality and even international celebrity, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2014 peace prize on Friday to Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India. The award joined a teenage Pakistani known around the world with an Indian veteran of campaigns to end child labor and free children from trafficking.

Ms. Yousafzai, 17, is the youngest recipient of the prize since it was created in 1901. Mr. Satyarthi is 60. The $1.1 million prize is to be divided equally between them.

The award was announced in Oslo by Thorbjorn Jagland, the committee’s chairman, who said: “The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.”

“Children must go to school and not be financially exploited,” Mr. Jagland said. “It is a prerequisite for peaceful global development that the rights of children and young people be respected. In conflict-ridden areas in particular, the violation of children leads to the continuation of violence from generation to generation.”

Riaz Haq said...

Malala received the " US Liberty Award", yet another honor today after the Nobel Peace Prize.

The more honors the West heaps on Malala, I'm afraid the greater will be the suspicion in Pakistan about the West's motives. As someone described it recently, its the "white man savior complex" at play here..a extension of Kipling's "white man's burden" to civilize us savages whom they ruled as our colonial masters. To me, the real test of Malala's contribution should be measured by how many girls she inspires to go to schools...girls who would not have done so otherwise.

Riaz Haq said...

Arundhati Roy’s charm and lucidity have iconized her in the world of left-wing politics. But, asked by Laura Flanders what she made of the 2014 Nobel Prize, she appeared to be swallowing a live frog: “Well, look, it is a difficult thing to talk about because Malala is a brave girl and I think she has even recently started speaking out against the US invasions and bombings…but she’s only a kid you know and she cannot be faulted for what she did….the great game is going on…they pick out people [for the Nobel Prize].” For one who has championed peoples causes everywhere so wonderfully well these shallow, patronizing remarks were disappointing.

Farzana Versey, Mumbai based left-wing author and activist, was still less generous. Describing Malala as “a cocooned marionette” hoisted upon the well-meaning but unwary, Versey lashes out at her for, among other things, raising the problem of child labor at her speech at the United Nations: “it did not strike her that she is now even more a victim of it, albeit in the sanitized environs of an acceptable intellectual striptease.”

Riaz Haq said...

Her name is Humaira Bachal. At age 12, she began teaching friends after school in the slums of Karachi. At age 13, she made a formal classroom outside her home by installing a chalkboard to teach other children who could not attend school at the end of her own school day. By age 16, she founded a school with four younger female colleagues (her sister and three friends) in a run-down building with “dirt, water and mud all around [where] all we had was… two rooms with bare walls.” By age 21, in the same slums she now had a school with 1,200 students where her 18 year-old sister Tahira was school principal. Two documentary filmmakers and some reporters found her and documented her story. Then the second documentarist became an Academy and Emmy Award winner. The Academy Award winning filmaker later introduced Ms. Bachal to Madonna. At 25, Ms. Bachal was on stage with Madonna at a concert for women’s rights during which Madonna promoted raising money for Ms. Bachal’s Dream Foundation Trust to build her a better school. In late September this year, at age 27, Humaira Bachal opened the new building of her Dream Model Street School.

To put in context the challenge Ms. Bachal overcame simply to become educated in Pakistan’s slums (never mind becoming a leading education advocate), about 40% of girls and 20% of boys grow up illiterate in Pakistan today according to UNICEF. Consider further that according to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Rankings Pakistan ranks 141st out of 142 countries ranked, only finishing ahead of Yemen while behind Nigeria (118th), Saudia Arabia (130th) and Iran (137th).

In multiple documentaries, Ms. Bachal’s mother Zainab has discussed how Ms. Bachal’s father physically beat her because she allowed young Humaira to continue going to school in 9th grade and hid the fact from him (the beating came when he found out). On film in her earlier days, one of Ms. Bachal’s own brothers has said that after seeing what was going on at Ms. Bachal’s school, he would not allow any of his own daughters to attend his sister’s or any non-religious school; he would only allow his daughters religious education, “I will never get my daughters into school except for some basic Islamic teaching. For my son’s education, I am willing to even beg in the streets.”

Riaz Haq said...

The bottom line is that the jury seems to have succumbed once again to stereotypes conveyed in the media. Pakistan is presented there as an Islamists stronghold where girls can't go to school. While this may be true for the areas bordering Afghanistan and many villages in the countryside, this is certainly not the case in large cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Quetta or Islamabad. In these places you can even find elite universities for young women. In large cities, gender is not the decisive factor for determining someone's education prospects, but rather personal wealth.
India, on the other hand, is portrayed as an emerging, mostly peaceful, economic power with one major stain: the wealth of the elites is based on the bonded labor of lower classes, and especially on child labor. Hence it fits the picture that Oslo chose Kailash Satyarthi, a crusader against child labor, for the Nobel Peace Prize. But some tend to forget that India is also home to religiously and socially motivated violence, a lack of education opportunities for girls.
After confirming these stereotypes, Western countries may now lay back and think that they at least have done something symbolic for the region. But the truth of the matter is that in terms of real politics, badly needed concepts for the future of the subcontinent are still missing.

Riaz Haq said...

The Promise of Pakistan’s Private Schools
Through market-driven schools, young Pakistani women are gaining access to opportunity.
By Tahir Andrabi

Dec. 11, 2014 11:59 a.m. ET , Wall Street Journal

When 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Wednesday, the accompanying pomp and press coverage helped rekindle a global fascination with the fearless young Pakistani activist who was shot and wounded after speaking out against Taliban attacks on girls’ schools.
Back home in Pakistan, the international attention has only fed the polarized opinion surrounding Ms. Yousafzai, beloved by some and derided as a pawn of the West by others.
But to single out Ms. Yousafzai as either a national hero or tool of foreign influence is to miss the real story. After working as a field researcher in Pakistan for a decade, it’s become clear to me that Ms. Yousafzai represents a new generation in Pakistan, where an estimated 50 million children are of primary-school age. For the first time in the nation’s history, more girls—63%—of primary-school age are in school than not, even as they face Taliban and other extremist threats, and even amidst an ongoing national crisis of leadership.
Girls in every corner of Pakistan, including those bordering the tribal areas and in Ms. Yousafzai’s northwest home district of Swat, are not only passing high-school exit exams at a higher rate than boys, they also consistently rank among the top students in these exams. In the most recent rounds of admissions to medical and dental schools, Pakistani girls made up 70% of the successful candidates.
The most striking change in the educational landscape feeding this phenomenon is the tremendous growth in low-cost private schools and not, as is commonly believed, in religious schools, or madrassas. This is confirmed by surveys, by government data and now by an increasing body of my own team’s field research. Their growth is fastest in the rural areas, including the Pashtun belt, and their numbers increased to more than 70,000 in 2011 from 36,000 in 1999—with no signs of a slowdown. Today they account for almost 40% of enrollment of the country’s youth. In fact, Ms. Yousafzai’s father started one such school—the Khushal School and College—in Swat in the 1990s.
This phenomenon first began after the denationalization of schools and colleges in the 1980s, allowing a critical mass of modestly educated young women, which had emerged due to government investments in secondary schooling, to serve as teachers in these schools. Today these mom-and-pop-run schools are market driven, fiercely competitive and teach a mainstream curriculum focusing on languages and math. Staffed overwhelmingly with local female teachers and bereft of any organized support from foreign-aid donors or the Pakistani government, these schools outperform their public counterparts (admittedly a low bar) on learning outcomes by a wide margin—equivalent to one year’s worth of learning by grade five. And tuition is only about $2 a month, making the schools affordable to many families dependent on daily wage labor of about $2 per day—the nation’s poverty line.
In surveys conducted in poor rural areas by the research team to which I belong, Pakistani parents exhibit little gender bias in their belief in girls’ abilities to succeed academically. In carefully conducted field experiments, rural families tend to show high aspirations for their girls when told of the increasing performance of girls in urban areas. What also stands out in these surveys is how the aspirations of Pakistani parents are indistinguishable from those in similarly developed countries across Asia and Africa.
Pakistan is a large, complex country, and there is danger in pushing any single narrative too far....

Riaz Haq said...

Excerpt of World Bank report:

"Private schools in Pakistan, long catering to children of the country’s elite, have become popular among the poor thanks to the spread of low-cost private schools. More than a third of all children are now enrolled in private school, where tuition averages less than $5 a month in rural villages, a small fraction of average household income"

Riaz Haq said...

The delivery of education services is a very important and much talked about topic in Pakistan. This article attempts to challenge the myths associated with this topic. The focus of this article is government schools in Peshawar.

The three main features of the delivery of educational services are: 1) to increase access of all schoolgoing age children to school; 2) to improve the quality of education delivered; and 3) equity – to provide educational services to all children without discrimination.

In Pakistan, approximately 75 percent children attend government schools, while 25 percent attend private schools. The quality of education provided in government school is generally rated as poor. Equity in government schools is a non-issue because government schools are generally meant for the economically less advantaged class of society.

Myth 1: Financial allocations for the education sector are low and increased allocation will automatically improve the standard of education. Each province of Pakistan allocates around 40 percent of its annual budget on the standard of education; in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa it reached around Rs70 billion in 2014-15. Moreover 50 percent of employees in each province belong to the education department.

Despite this huge investment in education, the required educational results are not achieved. One indicator is examination results. An analysis of the results of the matriculation examinations of the Peshawar Board of Secondary and Intermediate examination in the year 2008 reveals that among 20 top position holders, not even one was from a government school, although 80 percent students in the province attend government schools. Students from private schools got higher grades (97 percent A1, 78 percent A, 47 percent B), Government school students got a higher numbers of low grades (89 percent D, 78 percent C and 53 percent B).

Although private schools receive no government funds and also pay taxes, their examination results are far better than government schools. Increases in allocations don’t automatically improve the delivery of educational services unless mismanagement of funds is controlled. Singapore developed a world class education system by the most productive use of four percent of its GDP allocations.

Myth 2: Students are young and their opinions don’t matter. Students are important education stakeholders and the education system is meant to develop the younger generation into useful citizens. Therefore, their opinion needs to be considered while bringing about education reforms.

A survey was conducted in 2008 in Peshawar to gauge the satisfaction level of stakeholders (teachers, students, parents, education officers, and politicians) in government schools. Stakeholders showed only 28 percent satisfaction level towards the delivery of education services. Students showed the highest level of dissatisfaction among all the stakeholders.

Students were interviewed in their classrooms at the primary, middle, and high school levels. They complained that teachers don’t teach in classrooms and spend more time chatting with other teachers. Education officers on monitoring visits to schools spend time in the principal’s office.

Myth 3: A uniform education system will improve the delivery of education services. In Pakistan, three parallel educational systems run parallel to each other. The very underprivileged class attends madressahs, the underprivileged attend government schools, and the middle and richer classes attend private schools. There can’t be a uniform system unless class difference is removed.

There is no uniform education system in the US and Europe, where both government and private sectors are involved in the delivery of education services. ....

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan defies West's stereotypes of #Muslims: More #girls in #Pakistan colleges than boys. #MalalaYousafzai

Malala is made to tell a particular story about people in the global South, generally, and Pakistan, specifically.

She is represented as the girl who defied the culture in Pakistan, and who now embodies a transnational, secular modernity exemplified by her emphasis on independence, choice, advocacy for freedom, and arguments for gender equality.

Instead of being a symbol of the courage of Muslims and Pakistanis to stand up against local forms of violence, Malala is presented as an exception.

This narrative of Malala sustains the façade of Islam as an oppressive religion and Muslims as embroiled in pre-modern sensibilities.

Transnational girls’ education campaigns, such as the Nike Foundation’s “Girl Effect” and the White House’s “Let Girls Learn,” similarly paint a picture of black and brown populations as pre-modern, and still not educating girls. They call on the feminist sensibilities of benevolent citizens to save their Muslim sisters.

Such formulations, however, not only re-articulate the binary of victim/heroine, but also abstract education from a complex web of issues such as state corruption, the hollowed-out welfare system, and lack of access to jobs, among others.

In the case of Pakistan, for instance, research shows that girls are in school; in fact, there are more girls in higher education than boys!

Girls’ education – or, lack thereof – thus, has become a way in which Western institutions have established their own superiority and, simultaneously, the inferiority of Islam and Muslims, deeming interventions necessary and even ethically imperative.

In the context of these deep and emotional attachments to girls and education, girls who advocate for education (like Malala) and the school infrastructure itself have become prominent targets for extremists as a means to express their anti-West, anti-United States and anti-Pakistan sentiments.

It enables them to strike at the heart of what liberal global North deems as its most prized project.

Importantly, the extremists represent their attacks as a continuation of their fight against what they perceive to be colonial and foreign influence – mass schooling in Pakistan being a legacy of the British colonizers who displaced local, indigenous traditions and systems of learning.

This is a serious critique that we must take into account if we hope to curb this war on education.