New UN plan to get girls in school boosted by Malala's father

The father of Malala Yousufzai, the girl shot in Pakistan for speaking on behalf of girls' education, attended the unveiling of a new plan to get girls around the world into schools.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital/AP
This undated photo released by Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, shows the 15-year-old girl Malala Yousufzai who was shot in the head at close range by a Taliban gunman in Pakistan, with her father Ziauddin Yousufzai. Ziauddin attended the unveiling of a new plan to get girls around the world into schools.

The Pakistani government and the United Nations' education agency unveiled a plan today to motivate girls around the world to enroll in schools by the end of 2015. 

Organizers dubbed it the "Malala Plan," after Malala Yousufzai, the 15-year-old education activist who survived being shot by a Taliban gunman in October. Malala's father, Ziauddin, attended the ceremony along with Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, who announced a $10 million in seed funding for the plan. 

The new plan highlights just how bleak girls’ education in Pakistan has become: More than 1,500 schools have been bombed by the Taliban since 2008 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – the province where Malala comes from. According to recent data, less than 80 percent of children aged 6 to 16 in Pakistan are enrolled in school; of those who do attend, only 36 percent are girls.

Malala’s shooting has added to the pervasive sense of fear among parents and their daughters over attending school in Pakistan. Conservative Islamic values also contribute to many parents sending their sons to religious seminaries and keeping their daughters out of school. While funds for building schools and paying teachers can help, analysts say what's needed most to get girls to school is improved security and parents valuing education.

“The frequency of schools being bombed by the Taliban is increasing and the security situation is the biggest deterrent. The majority of the population in Pakistan wants to send their children to schools but what is the state doing to enable a safer environment? Not much,” says Samar Minallah, an anthropologist who has worked on women's rights extensively in this region bordering with Afghanistan.

Khadim Hussain runs a private network of subsidized schools in the region. He links targeting of school by the Taliban to their narrow-mindedness. “They want the kids to be on the one hand not incorporated or linked to the modern human civilization, and on the other hand to be idle to be recruited quite easily,” Mr. Hussain says.

Former school left as rubble

In a village next to tribal areas of Pakistan, a government school was bombed in July this year. A visit to the location revealed that even four months later the rubble of the bombed out school remains, which locals say serves as a haunting reminder to the parents.

A teacher who taught here, and wishes not to be identified because of threats, says the Taliban have bombed over four schools in his area in last one year. “Teachers, children, and their parents see rubble where the school used to be – seeing it completely destroyed, do you think anyone will have the heart to go to school in such circumstances?”

A student who used to study here echoes the same thoughts. “In the current situation, we are very scared, because there can be a blast anytime, even when we are inside the school. We cannot do anything to stop it. And that is why we are not interested in education anymore,” he says, and also requests anonymity.

Hussain says that while the government talks of commitment to improve the education sector, their implementation is weak. “The security agencies are failing to tackle the attacks and then there is a lack of ownership by government administration at the grassroots level, because the subordinates do not know whose orders to follow. In case of clearing the rubble for example, the security institutions and the provincial government are working independent of each other, and such lack of coordination cannot bring desired results,” he adds.

Why Malala's father can help

Ms. Minallah says when she worked on reducing violence against women, that husbands had to be involved to bring positive results. “In the same way, fathers need to be involved through effective communication strategies which convince them to send girls to schools, and for example, the sacrifice of Malala’s father is a great symbol to motivate other parents,” she adds.

In fact, Ziauddin Youasfzai, Malala’s father was named the United Nation’s special adviser on global education on Sunday.

“We, as a community, need to be inspired by people like her father – Ziauddin, who against all odds stood up to give education to Malala and continues to do so. Through such effective communication symbols, the mindset can change,” Minallah says adding, that to counter the propaganda and fear instilled by the Taliban, a stronger communication strategy coupled with effective security can turn the education sector around.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to New UN plan to get girls in school boosted by Malala's father
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-South-Central/2012/1210/New-UN-plan-to-get-girls-in-school-boosted-by-Malala-s-father
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe