It’s taken me almost a week to muster the calm required to write this post.
As a mother I am horrified by the massacre which took place in a school in Peshawar, Pakistan last Tuesday, and my heart goes out to the mothers and fathers who have lost their children in this senseless and unjustified attack. Over 148 people, mostly children, were slaughtered, and I have not been able to watch the news without feeling terror that this kind of thing can happen somewhere in the world.
As a teacher I am horrified that a school is the chosen location of the Taliban militants. No child should be afraid to receive an education, and no child should be terrorised in their school- a place that every child should be able to feel safe and protected. We have seen before with the attack on Malala Yousafzai also in Pakistan that our young are not safe from this kind of targeting, but the scale and brutality of this outrage has exceeded anything that has gone before.
And as a human I am horrified at the attack on innocents, who should not be caught up in this appalling quasi- religious war. Whether adults or children, in Pakistan or the rest of the world, to have innocent people as the deliberate target shows how little mercy the extremists show, and requires a powerful response from the Pakistani government and other world leaders.
There is a growing fear that Pakistan could soon become the most unstable and dangerous nation in the region. Grotesque economic inequalities have perhaps helped to fuel the rise of militant Islamism. And the weak educational system is having a devastating effect on the future development of the country.
While we should all be sickened by the violence, misogyny and extremism of the Peshawar school attackers, that outrage must not prevent us from recognising the true problem. After all, it wasn’t the Taliban that filled the school curriculum with material that quashes numeracy and reason — and with them the prospects for pluralism in the country. It wasn’t the Taliban that built schools without walls, without running water and without bathrooms. These are a legacy of a corrupt bureaucracy and patronage politics — during both democratic and military regimes.
The Taliban did carry out a horrendous massacre, but there was enormous state failure before the first shot was fired.
For the first time the majority of the country has condemned the attack and is united in its opinion of Taliban. However, without a secular nation with a solid and incorruptible education and legal system, little change will come about.