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Having downed four cups of coffee already, once again I tried recollecting any faint memories I might have about my first experiences in school; something significant, like a particular instance, or an incident that might have stood the test of times and might still be intact somewhere deep in my memory in the (soon to be) 20 years of my life. But everything seemed to be a bit fuzzy before my 1st grade. The one thing that I managed to remember was the face of a watchman who used to sit outside the premises. Be it rain or shine, he would be sitting on his stool giving a big smile to every kid who enters the gates. Because of my father’s transferable job, I had to shift schools but irrespective of where I was, a school was a place of fun, frolic and merriment where we didn’t just learn the syllabi prescribed courses but also life lessons about friendships, equality, tolerance, and above all the value of education in bringing about light in the darkest realms of inequality, injustice and instability. For me, education was never rotting of books but it was more of acquiring knowledge which was not restricted to school syllabi.

Kids getting hurt in the playground and students trying to cheat in their tests are not the only things that school authorities around the world have to worry about today. They face more grave dangers like terrorist attacks and incidents of shootings that have been prevalent in the West. This post may come in light of the recent brutality witnessed in the Peshawar school attacks where 141 children were killed in cold blood, but my intention is not to focus on this one incident but to draw attention to several similar ones happening around the globe. Schools, having long been termed as second homes to children, are fast becoming “soft targets”; from Boko Haram’s kidnappings of young girls to the numerous Taliban attacks on schools, which according to statistics amount to almost a thousand since 2009.

I have wondered time and again, as to why would someone irrespective of whatever the agenda, in their right minds hurt children. Strewn across the internet, are opinions that vary. As far as my opinion goes, I strongly believe the factor of “fear”. Now before you point your fingers at me for stating the obvious, I would like to explain my theory. I am not talking about the ‘’fear’’ that the perpetrators wish to create in the mind of the population but the fear that exists in the minds of those very perpetrators. As more and more kids are initiated to the education system, these fanatics are scared of the impending consequences of the modern ideas and realities that the students get exposed to. Around the world, there has been an uprising of sorts, making education more accessible by bringing it to the grasps of the ones at the grass-root level.

I believe that it is this fear in the minds of those mindless fanatics that make them commit such attacks. Ironically, this fear that they desperately want to create in the minds of common man is diminishing slowly and steadily. It is slowly making way for a bold new generation that refuses to bow down to oppression and remain a silent spectator to gross injustice and inequality.

Elucidating an example is the biggest crusader of women’s right and propagator for educating children, Malala Yousuf Zahi who was shot at, while on her way back from school. This was done to put fear in the hearts of those parents who dared to send their girls to school even after it was banned by the Taliban. Little did they know, that Malala would soon recuperate from the head injury! In fact, this incident gained international attention. From a lone figure raising her voice for women education in the Swat Valley, she became a worldwide icon of propagating women rights and education for children.

On the eve of her 16th birthday, Malala had addressed the United Nations Assembly, her last few words still resonate in my head, “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution; education first.”

 

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Let them learn, Let them grow
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Rounak Bose

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