Fatal Acts: Daring to Look and Learn

by: Baela Raza Jamil

December 21, 2012

Recent tragic happening of two girls Anusha and Malala are likely to become markers for irreversible social transformation in Pakistan. Both are symbols of the heavy price children and
girls have to bear for simply engaging with life; daring to look and daring to learn. In these notes marking the Global Malala Day on November 10, 2012, perhaps it is best to begin with Anusha, so that she does not fade into oblivion.

Anusha a young girl of barely 15 years in Khoi Ratta, north of Muzaffarabad in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) was seen looking at boys outside her home by her mother. The parents became judge, jury executioner, dousing her with acid. Anusha sizzled for over 24 hours and died on October 29th, 2012 without telling the world her side of the story. She was a diligent young surrogate, as girls often are at that age in Pakistan, looking after her siblings who cried bitterly as their sister cared for them in many ways, as well as going to school.

Malala Yousafzai also aged 15, now a global hero for millions or perhaps billions was shot point blank by a young Taliban 20 days prior to Anusha on October 9th, 2012 in Mingora, Swat as she boarded a school bus along with her friends. Her crime was openly promoting education and for girls in particular stating that nothing will stand between her right to learn, not even the Talibans. She had been advocating this since 2009 conventionally and through social media fully backed by her parents and her father reinforcing her passion to learn and courage to speak her mind.

For this, Malala met with a brutal response from the tehrik –e-taliban Pakistan (TTP) who have vowed to continue targeting Malala. Mercifully she lives on due to her own courage and prayers of millions in Pakistan and globally who stand by her. In her fight for peace through education, pushing for girls’ right to education she became an equalizer bringing rich and poor, the maulvis and the progressives, urban and rural of all beliefs on one platform to condemn the savage brutality in the name of ‘religion’. There are not many in this country who stand as tall as Malala in this campaign. A movement has stirred for article 25 –A, demanding the law and its implementation through million signature campaigns nationally and globally demanding quality education for children 5-16 years of age.

Today, November 10th, 2012 has been declared by the UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon as Malala Day globally calling her “a global symbol of every girl’s right to education… and for 61 million children still not in school”

Gordon Brown, UN Secretary General’s special envoy on Education and the Education First initiative is in Pakistan to kick off this campaign from Pakistan’s soil handing over 1 million international signatures and 1 million signatures of Pakistani children mobilized by civil society, for the Right to Education to President Zardari. Meanwhile tens of thousands of Britons have called on the government to nominate

Malala Yousafzai for the Nobel Peace Prize… Insha Allah she will remain our STAR

Malala has already encouraged the Govt of Pakistan to make a commitment to enrolling 3 million children through the Waseela-e-Taleem Programme launched on November 9th 2012 by the President of Pakisan Asif Ali Zardari as part of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) at the Aiwan-e-Sadr. The 4 year program is aimed at providing free education to the children of poorest of the poor families through BISP targeting the most vulnerable with cash grants, micro financing, skill development and life and health insurance. The President said that “We are committed to achieve Universal Primary Education; as a result of constitutional amendment, education is now included in the fundamental rights”.

Will this do the trick merely enrolling children, or will it be matched by high learning outcomes as well to provide real entitlements to the children. The ASER 2011 report highlight that 50% of children in grade 5 cannot handle grade two’s numeracy and literacy.

Anusha unfortunately is invisible to the world, killed in a place where she thought was safe, a place called ‘home’, private and away from the public eye with parents who could act anyway they could with their child. They have regrets, but it is too late. Pakistan needs protection for children from all kinds of abuse so that they can blossom and have decent choices in life. Sadly Pakistan is off track to meet the MDGs and the EFA targets; the Global Monitoring Report (GMR) 2012 resonates well with Malala’s campaign as Pakistan scores in the bottom ten of new country rankings for education of poor females. The Waaseela-e-Taleem program targets the poorest and the most disadvantaged. A powerful interactive website World Inequality Database in Education,(WIDE) now helps us target better to bridge inequalities. Pauline Rose, head of GMR adds that “Pakistan is in the bottom ten countries for the proportion of poorest girls who have never even spent time in a classroom. Only six African countries are in a worse situation. It is also in the bottom ten for the amount of time that young women have spent in school in their life-time.” Amongst the poorest or the lowest income quintile in Pakistan 62% girls are unable to go to school (WIDE 2012).

What can be done? Will the girls in Pakistan be given a second chance to catch up on education? Malala and Anusha would want that very much so that they can have the opportunities to know and defend their rights; so that no girl ever has to pay as heavy a price as they have had to pay for looking and learning in Pakistan. Let us All Light Candles for Anusha and Malala on November 10th 2012.


For signatures on right to education Article 25 A go here.