Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai returned to Pakistan on Thursday for the first time since being shot by Taliban militants. Her return was seen by many as a major milestone one that shows that Pakistan’s fight against militancy and militant mindset is not only on the right path but is inching closer to complete success.
The participation of thousands of children in Swat in the Swat Science Festival has sent a similar message once again. Malala was targeted by the Taliban in 2012 in the same region for championing girls’ education while she was on her way home in a school van after taking an exam. She was just 15 at the time of the attack. At the time of the attack two other girls were also in the school van – both of whom received bullet injuries. Malala sustained a bullet injury to her head and was shifted from Pakistan to a hospital in Birmingham in a precarious condition.
Six years later, a massive attendance of 1,500 girls and 5,000 boys from more than 130 government and private schools in Swat district took part in the Swat Science Festival, besides hundreds of teachers, entrepreneurs, science specialists, government officials and lawmakers. The militants who targeted Malala wanted to put fear in the minds of those who championed the cause of education, especially girl’s education. The kids in Swat have revenged the attack on Malala with the best weapon possible – education. The two-day festival was organized by Udhyaana, Swat Education Department and Pakistan Alliance for Maths and Science. Interactive displays and live experiments, some of which involved robotics, hydraulics, electrical circuits, and easy-to-understand math guides, were conducted by the students and six science organisations from across Pakistan.
Educationists pointed out that Swat was at the receiving end due to extremism and violence from 2007 to 2009. It resulted in decreased opportunities for girls to access education. The district is now in its recovery phase. They said girls and boys are now going to schools, albeit certain challenges remain. One of these includes poor learning outcomes with only 40.2 percent students in Grade 5 being able to read a story in Urdu/Pashto. Only 44 percent students in Class 5 can solve a 2-digit division sum. It is up to the government to fully facilitate the young minds of Swat and ensure that every kid in the region receives quality education. Education is the way forward for Pakistan be it Swat or any other part of the country.