Taliban versus Education: Who Will Win?

18 December 2014
Published in Blog

By Yahya Bedair 

December 18, 2014

In an act of utter cowardice, Taliban attacked a school in Peshawar and murdered 145 people. The shocking news is even harder to swallow when one learns that out of the 145 people killed, 132 of them were children. Aged 12-16, these educated children had the potential to make a great impact on their country in the future. But does Taliban want a better Pakistan?

The excruciating news of the Peshawar attack reminded me of the similar violent assault on the Noble Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai. In 2012, Yousafzai was shot three times while boarding her bus to school. She remained unconscious for days and was left hanging between life and death just for promoting women’s right to education. She was targeted because her advocacy for education went against Taliban’s ban, which infuriated the extremist group.

At this point it becomes clear that education is the anathema to Taliban. They tried to kill Yousafzai, they failed. They went on a shooting spree at a school in Peshawar- and they will fail. One thing we need to put in mind is that education will never play in Taliban’s favor. Taliban’s main asset is ignorance; the extremist group relies on recruiting people who can commit acts against Islam- in the name of Islam. To achieve that, it takes some overwhelming ignorance.

Pakistan, in fact, suffers from a serious education problem. According to the UNESCO, Pakistan has the “world’s second highest number of children out of school, reaching 5.1 million children in 2010.” Moreover, the country has 49.5 million illiterate adults, two-thirds of which are women. These figures make Pakistan the host of the third largest illiterate population in the world. These numbers make Taliban feel safe and comfortable. It provides a fertile ground for recruiting people who are easily deluded into joining and accepting the group’s twisted doctrine. Hence, it comes as no surprise that Taliban attacks schools and girls like Malala Yousafzai because these children prove to be the biggest threat to Taliban.

Therefore, the silver lining of this tragic attack is that now we know that the group is very vulnerable and weak. These attacks were meant to scare people from sending their children to schools, but I believe it should encourage them instead. Your children’s education is Taliban’s death sentence. Promote education in Pakistan and work on building more affordable, public schools to the destitute and Taliban will no longer have a place among the Pakistanis.

**In the memory of the 145 killed, you will not be forgotten. Many times we take the privilege of education for granted, but this attack should always remind us that not many enjoy this privilege.**

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Yahya Bedair is a freelance writer. He recently graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in Politics and minors in Economics and Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies. Follow him on Twitter at @TheYB92

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