A lost generation
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
The Taliban have scored a significant victory in their war against the forces of moderation. It is a victory that will echo down history and may well be followed by others of similar ilk and magnitude. Their victory is not on the battleground, not a victory accomplished by main force – it is in the classroom. The destruction across the northern battlegrounds of girls' schools is not only about the bringing down of bricks and mortar; it is the impediment the razing of the schools brings to the whole issue of education for females in the areas where the Taliban are now dominant – and that includes Quetta where there are recent credible reports of girls' schools being threatened.
The Taliban of Pakistan today believe, think and act as did the Taliban who ruled Afghanistan until late in 2001. There, they obliterated female education. They did not just slow it down or put it on hold; they finished it at every level from primary to university. Such female education as there was in the areas they controlled was delivered by brave teachers who defied them and was received by the children of even braver parents who refused to be cowed down by the Taliban's medieval mindset. As those tasked with the reconstruction of Afghanistan have learned, it is not enough to merely build schools; they have to be staffed by trained teachers and supplied and maintained. Above all, the population has to be convinced that there is honour, merit and value in educating females. That is where the Taliban in Pakistan have scored such a significant victory - and a significant loss for the rest of the country. It is the power and control that they exercise over the minds of those they dominate and intimidate that is their most potent weapon. It is the fear of sending girls to school that is now placed in the minds of those terrified of the consequences of so doing, which will embed for a generation. Fear such as this does not switch on and off like a light bulb, it ebbs slowly away if it ebbs at all, taking years to be replaced by confidence and a change of heart.
We might also raise the question of the administration as to why, knowing the threat posed to girls' schools, they did not do more to protect them. The answer, in no small part, may lie in that some elements of the administration share the same goals and aspirations as the Taliban, are their tacit supporters and are unlikely to get in the way if the Men in Black torch whatever education facility for girls they may choose. A hollow victory; a lost generation.
Source: The News, Pakistan