Malala Yousafzai paid a high price for her activism for girls' education. Now, number of people attribute the hike in girls' enrollment in schools in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to her struggle.
Malala's international admiration has boosted the number of newly enrolled girls in schools in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KPK), particularly Malakand Division. The Malakand Division includes the districts of Chitral, Lower Dir and Upper Dir, Swat, Buner, Shangla and Malakand.
"In less than a month, more than 200,000 children, including 75,000 girls have been enrolled in different schools," KPK education minister Atif Khan told DW. He added that the people living in this area had now understood the importance of education in a nation's progress. Khan called what happened to Malala "upsetting" and hoped it would not repeat itself.
Malala Yousafzai started her campaign for girls' right to education when she was 11 years old. She was attacked by Islamist militants on October 9th last year. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and warned that any woman who stood up to them would suffer a similar fate. Malala was shot in the head, but after multiple operations she, survived.
In 2007, the Islamist militants had taken over Swat and imposed an extremist Shariah law. Opponents were murdered, people were publicly flogged for supposed breaches of Shariah law, women were banned from going to market and girls were stopped from going to school. The Taliban not only destroyed schools in Malakand Division, but also preached against girls' education via their illegal FM radios. As a result of the Taliban campaign, many girls stopped going to school. But after a military crackdown in 2009, the majority of the Taliban were kicked out of the area. Now, many of these girls are back in school.
Enrollment on the rise
Officials from the department of education in Swat say the Taliban's departure from the area and Malala's initiative have caused the number of boys and girls who enroll in school to rise in Malakand Division. However, the local government has failed to employ more than 1,000 needed female teachers and build 200 required classrooms for the newly enrolled students. The shortage of female teachers and shelter for students has created problems in KPK, where demand for education is growing.
Islamist militants have destroyed more than 800 schools in the province, 182 in Malakand Division alone. The local government has been able to rebuild only 43 schools. The international community has also helped Pakistan run dozens of schools in KPK and in border areas with Afghanistan.
"Swat was on top when it came to education. There was a bad period for Swat, but we are back," says KPK assembly provincial member Nagina Khan, referring to the Taliban rule in the area. She adds, "There are many Malalas in Swat. Every girl wants to be educated as Malala."
Islamist militants still have a presence in KPK. The local residents might not declare their support for Malala publicly for the fear of the Taliban, but they wish this young peace and education campaigner luck for her further campaign.
KPK's former provincial education minister Hussain Babak tells DW that the attack on Malala has increased the focus on education among people. "When they attacked Malala, the whole nation felt they should educate their children. The number of girls enrolled has increased since then. We believe one day all girls will attend schools in this area," he adds. The former government official says KPK has witnessed terrorism in the past, adding that the militants were still killing innocent people. "We hope these days will end soon," he says.
Story originally published on October 11.