Sunday, December 28, 2008

Education To Die For

From The Australian:
"The Taliban has ordered the closure of all girls' schools in the war-ravaged Swat district of Pakistan and warned parents and teachers of dire consequences if the ban is flouted.

In an announcement made in mosques and broadcast on radio, the militant group set a deadline of January 15 for its order to be obeyed or it would blow up school buildings and attack schoolgirls. It also told women not to set foot outside their homes without being fully covered.

"Female education is against Islamic teachings and spreads vulgarity in society," Shah Dauran, leader of a group that has established control over a large part of Swat district in the North West Frontier Province, declared this week.

Teachers said that they had little choice but to comply. The Taliban have destroyed more than 125 girls' schools in the area in the past year.

Mullah Fazlullah - also known as Mullah Radio for his sermons broadcast through his illegal FM radio stations - has long been exhorting people to stop sending their daughters to schools, which "inculcate Western values". Hundreds of girls and women teachers have quit schools as a result.

Since the start of the government offensive, girls' schools have been targeted increasingly by Islamic fundamentalists. The district has 842 boys' and 490 girls' state schools for 300,000 children aged three to nine; only 163,645 boys and 67,606 girls are actually enrolled at state and private establishments, according to official figures.

According to the local authorities, 50 per cent of girls have stopped attending school because of the militants' threats. Hazir Gul, a teacher, said the inability of the authorities to provide protection against attacks had emboldened the Islamists, who burned schools "whenever they want".

Attacks on girls' schools are not confined to the Swat district. In the past two years a further 100 schools have been burnt down in Waziristan and other tribal areas, leaving tens of thousands of children between the ages of five and 15 without education. In many areas, hardliners have established sharia, or Islamic law, and introduced public executions for those who break it."

From the BBC News:
"Taleban militants in the Swat valley in north-west Pakistan have threatened to kill girls who attend school.

This year alone, Taleban militants have destroyed more than 130 schools in the Swat valley. They want to bring in Islamic sharia law in the region. Militant attacks on schools in the region have deprived more than 17,000 students of education.

Although schools for girls have come under attack on numerous occasions in the past, this is the first time Taleban militants have issued a complete ban on girls attending them, the BBC's Ethirajan Anbarasan says.

A Taleban spokesman said the prohibition would remain in place unless and until Islamic sharia law was fully implemented in the region. State-run schools are seen by the insurgents as key symbols of the government. Now the militants have threatened to destroy private schools as well.
These schools are not Islamic religious institutions and the students are taught courses based on the government syllabus.

Locals say the ongoing attacks on schools have dealt a severe blow to education of girls and young women in the Swat valley. Those who can afford it have already moved out of the region, but the poor have no other option than keeping their daughters at home, our correspondent says. "

Read the article by Helene Gayle in the Press Democrat regarding the attack on Afghan girls on their way to school.

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