Education for All: Fighting for the Right

Malala Yousafzai, a 14 year old female, was flown to Birmingham for treatment after being shot in the head by Taliban gunmen, in Pakistan. Taliban spokesperson Ehsan Ullah Ehsan has confirmed responsibility over the shooting and stated that they attacked Malala because she was anti-Taliban and secular.

This deplorable incident has attracted global condemnation and has also highlighted disturbing realities, that goes beyond the religious political conflict in Pakistan. Malala’s shooting raises concerns about a young person's right to education and in particular a female's right to education.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states, the right to education includes the right to free, compulsory primary education for all and an obligation to develop secondary education accessible to all. The right to education under the covenant further includes an obligation to rule out discrimination at all levels of the educational system.

This inevitably leads us to question those in power, who is responsible to protect and provide a safe education?

Amjad Malik, the chairman of the Association of Pakistani Lawyers UK, and a member of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan believes that “it was the duty of the government to protect her, knowing fully well that she is the holder of the International Peace Award for writing her diaries, and they failed”.

Swat Valley, where the shooting took place, was once controlled by the Taliban and schooling was banned for females. During the summer of 2009 central government took control, and it is now an area that is no longer affiliated with the Taliban. But isolated attacks like this is a reminder of those who see education as a threat. This attempted assassination happened in a place which is 10-minutes walking distance from the Army Brigade headquarters. How it is possible that two people with weapons were able to move so freely and able to cause such harm?

Rubina Khalid, a senator with the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party said “I feel ashamed because we could not protect her and she was fighting a fight that should have been fought by us”. However Rubina Khalid goes on to say that the Government cannot be blamed for everything, this is “gorilla warfare” and we are “fighting a mindset”.

The Pakistani government have acknowledged that they need to vigorously work together to tackle these radical mindsets. There may be some truth in the senator's comments, de-radicalising and opposing extremism has been a long standing battle yet to be accomplished. However as pointed out by Amjad Malik, the Government’s manifesto pledged to tackle this with dialogue, deterrent and development. It has been four and a half years, can Pakistan realistically expect an effective response from their Government?

Here in the UK, former prime minister Gordon Brown, now a UN special envoy for global education, said he will be visiting Pakistan next month to speak with President Asif Ali Zardari about Malala's cause of education for girls. A petition has been started, which will be handed to Mr Zardari and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Malala’s diaries with BBC Urdu is an example of “voicing the voiceless”, an ethos rooted deep within the Restless Beings constitution. Through the darkness of this incident, Malala has shed light on the intelligent and brave people of Pakistan, a silently strong community that has been and will continue to work for development.

As long as basic human rights are being deprived there will be many more Malala’s fighting for their rights. However, next time the changemaker may not be so fortunate as to survive or be flown to the west for medical treatment. With global attention on Pakistan now, we can only hope Malala’s suffering will be a lesson learned that will bring long term change.

A sporting event has been held in Swat Valley to promote peace in the region. However this should not deter us from the essence of Malala’s message. She once said “I dreamt of a country where education would prevail”. A dream that is shared by many others. There is a Malala in every community.  These figures, not always named, not always in the media or the spotlight, struggle for change tirelessly. They can certainly be seen when a closer look is taken at the Restless Beings’ projects, the Dhaka Street Children, the Rohingya, Roma Gypsies and Ala Kachuu victims; all of whom are denied or removed from education due to cultural, financial and political factors, yet are resilient in their strive for more.

Despite the obstacles, Restless Beings shares the ambitions and dreams of education for all, regardless of sex, social status and economics.

Comments

Zeenat Islam

The issue of using the human rights language in situations such as these, is their inherently selective and political nature. The ICESCR is concerned with economic, social and cultural rights- ones which always seem to take a back seat to civil, political rights- and even then- neither types are ever truly actualised. The sad reality is that the concept of universality of rights will never be able to give a situation like this meaning. Indeed they will remain aspirations/dreams/ambitions until the concept of 'human rights' is reconceptualised - not in the image of the west.

21 October 2012 delete
Murshed Anwar

What is the reconceptualisation of human rights?

22 October 2012 delete
Mabrur Ahmed

In short a level playing field from the get go as opposed to looking at communities and 'empowering' them to certain rights. Until and unless human rights abusers are dealt with heavily by the law and without leniency to any type of individual parity will never be realised.

22 October 2012 delete