View Full Version : The Power Of One - Chris Cork - 13th November 2012

13th November 2012, 10:15 AM
In the month since Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban, she has gone from being local hero to global icon. She is recovering in a hospital in the UK which has received over 7000 greeting cards from around the world addressed to her and many more thousands of electronic messages. Saturday November 10, 2012 was named as ‘World Malala Day’, designated as such by the United Nations and endorsed by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Our own president has been seen receiving Gordon Brown, the UN special envoy for education and signing a petition in support of Malala and universal girls’ education. Over a 100,000 signatures have been gathered online globally calling for Malala to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and it is said that there is a better-than-even chance that she may be nominated.

On every continent bar Antarctica her stand against the Taliban and fight for education for herself and other girls in the Swat valley has been celebrated; and it is no exaggeration to say that she is probably the most instantly recognisable Pakistani person on the planet.

In her home country, her story has been turned into a broth of conspiracy theories and she is no longer headline news day-to-day. The two girls who were shot at the same time as Malala continue to live in Swat, recovered or recovering. They go to school where brave teachers impart the rudiments of wisdom and the Taliban hover in the sidelines, committed to the killing of any woman who breaches their antediluvian ‘codes’.

The global community may be committed to universal education for girls, but the government of Pakistan is not, despite its attempts to present a picture to the world that tells otherwise. This was pointed out to our president by Gordon Brown, who cuttingly remarked that with less than two percent of the GDP allotted to education compared to ten times that for defence, Pakistan needed to re-look at its priorities.

This is unlikely to happen, and Pakistan will remain as uneducated as it ever was, no matter what global initiatives there might be or however many Malala’s line-up to get shot. No matter how much the UK or other donors pump into our corrupt systems. Our ability to educate our children at the state level is actually declining, rather than accelerating and that because there is not and never has been the political will to invest in what is the most powerful of change agents – education, education, education.

The demographic, as in the expanding population, is exceeding the government commitment to the building of new schools and the training of teachers to staff them at the primary level. Demand for university places outstrips supply. Devolution of responsibility for education to the provinces has thus far had very mixed results, with few of them good.

The killing off of the Federal Education Ministry was a mistake of gargantuan proportions, and the creation of the ministry of education and training is a stable door being shut after the horse has bolted. The Taliban have had their part to play in the ruination of the education system, but a heavy responsibility lies with successive governments that have failed generation after generation of young Pakistanis.

Malala Yousafzai will recover eventually. She is unlikely ever to come back to Pakistan and would be dead in hours or days if she did. She is an accidental hero, never wanting or expecting her celebrity. She will live her life henceforward as an example of both the best and the worst of Pakistan, and will remain yet another of our lost assets.