Suddenly, across the globe, uncertainty and insecurity for girls’ education has skyrocketed when the scorching heat of this summer turned into a fire for teenage girls in a school located in the west of Kabul. Many grieving parents reached the funeral wailing that they’d sent them to school in search of a better life and the hope of a brighter future and those dreams are now buried with their daughters.
This bleak attack undulated effects on school attendance and ultimately on the learning outcomes of students. Afghanistan marked an official day of mourning on the death of eighty school girls and the hundreds wounded. According to UNICEF, 60 million girls around the world are out of school. Only 60 percent of the girls are enrolled out of the 3.5 million in Afghanistan. Nearly half of Afghanistan’s children do not attend school because of war, widespread poverty, and cultural factors, according to a report released this year, as part of the United Nations’ effort to identify where and how children are kept away from education.
The fear and fright syndrome has rippling and multiplier effects across the border in Pakistan where teenage schoolgirls and schools have suffered such brutal bomb attacks for many decades. Consequently, in such insecure environments, parents may prefer their children to remain unschooled. A few years ago, some school organisations decided to ban ‘I Am Malala’ a memoir written by Malala Yousafzai, a teenager shot by the Taliban for promoting the education of girls. Now again, the controversy of including a picture of education activist Malala Yousafzai in a list of important personalities in textbooks is expressive enough of cultural anathemas and social intolerance attached with girls’ education in this part of the world. Pakistan’s private schools launched an ‘Anti Malala Documentary’, the country whose Nobel prize holders are strangers and begrudged on their own land.
According to the Global Terrorism database, there were 867 attacks on educational institutions in Pakistan from 2007 to 2015. In 2018, militant groups burned down at least half of girls’ schools in the Diamer Gilgit Baltistan region. In the same year, militant groups burned down a minimum of 12 schools, and at least half of those belonged to girls. Pakistan faces a huge challenge of out-of-school children and 25 million are not enrolled.
Girls born in challenging environments have all the right to grow and prosper and be given a chance to self-actualise. The investment in girls’ education pays the best interest over generations, and nations have substantial pieces of evidence supporting this.
More than twenty million girls may never return to school once the terrorism and pandemic crisis subsides. International institutions should develop comprehensive policies to protect students from militant attacks with close coordination to the regions under any type of ethnic, war, or terrorist activity.
Developing countries must prioritise girls’ education as a strategic decision in war struck and armed conflict areas. The parents willing to send their children to schools in terrorism, war, conflict, and social barrier-struck areas, constantly assess their desire against the distress. Although many parents are eager to send their daughters to schools, they are weighing that fortune against fear and ambition against annihilation. In the words of Kofi Annan, when women thrive, the benefits are transferred to all social segments. For every girl, basic education begins to unravel her future and higher education opens up new horizons to transform not only her life but the lives of her family and her community. Let’s make a pledge and give a chance to girls to fulfil their potential and make informed choices.