Malala Yousafzai: Pakistani Students Protest Renaming Of School After Rights Activist, Citing Fears Of Militant Attacks

  @Gooch700 on December 13 2012 11:05 AM
Malala Oct 25 2012
Activist Malala Yousafzai is seen with her father Ziauddin and her two younger brothers as she recuperates at a hospital in the United Kingdom. Reuters

Not everyone in the remote Swat Valley is enamored with Malala Yousafzai, who became a global icon for women's rights after a Taliban gunman shot her in October as she returned from school.

More than 100 students attending college in Saidu Sharif in the Swat valley protested and boycotted classes after their school was renamed Government Post-Graduate Malala Yousafzai Girls College, largely fearing the new title will make it an obvious target for attacks by militants and terrorists.

One of the students, Gul Ghutai, told The Daily Telegraph by telephone:

"We want the government to remove the name plates and pictures and portraits of Malala immediately. [The] Taliban have not spared Malala, and they were out to destroy everything in her name, including our college."

Some demonstrators tore up posters of Malala and broke windows at the school, demanding the government restore its original name, Saidu Postgraduate College for Girls.

Protesters also complained that since Malala is recovering in the safety of a secure hospital thousands of miles away in Birmingham, England, it is they who are risking their lives by going to school in the Swat Valley.

Another student named Javeria told the Telegraph: "Malala had fled the country and [is] safe from Taliban, but now we would bear the brunt of militancy because the Taliban would attack us."

Indeed, Malala's recovery is expected to take another year, while her father has received a job offer at the Pakistan mission in the UK.

Students have asked the provincial government to change the school's name back or they vowed to intensify their protests.

"The militants didn't spare Malala, then how can they be expected to spare a college named after her,” a student named Spogmay told the Telegraph.

"The government should refrain from politicizing our education. We want to pursue our studies in peaceful environments, and the new name of our college can bring it into spotlight and Taliban could hit it."

However, according to The Hindu newspaper of India, some observers in Swat believe the protest may have been driven by local right-wing organizations who oppose women going to school, citing that many of the girls protesting wore the Islamic niqab veil, rather than the more typical chador shawl favored by Swat females.

Meanwhile, a recent report from the U.N. suggested that almost 75 percent of Pakistani girls are not attending primary school and that the number of females finishing five years of education is declining.

“Nearly half of primary-school-age children are not enrolled in school, and among eligible girls the out-of-school proportion is closer to three-quarters. In absolute numbers, out-of-school girls outnumber their male counterparts,” it said.

“Completion rates to the fifth year of schooling have actually declined in the past five years.”

The report noted that more than half (55 percent) of all Pakistani adults are illiterate, while the figure for women is nearly 75 percent.

The study lamented: “Females in Pakistan face discrimination, exploitation and abuse at many levels, starting with girls who are prevented from exercising their basic rights to education either because of traditional family practices, economic necessity or as a consequence of the destruction of schools by militants.”

Earlier this week, Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari pledged $10 million to help educate all girls in the country by 2015.

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