UNESCO | Education - “The future of an entire country is taken hostage,” says UNESCO Director-General on girls’ education in Pakistan’s Swat Valley
April 2009

“The future of an entire country is taken hostage,” says UNESCO Director-General on girls’ education in Pakistan’s Swat Valley
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“The situation of education in the Swat Valley is particularly worrying. For months, attacks have struck educational institutions, teaching staff and students. Girls’ schools have especially been targeted, and the two camps have set up military posts in school buildings. Even if the ceasefire announced in February seems to be good news, fear still reigns. Many teachers and thousands of families have deserted the region. Parents still refuse to send their daughters to school.

"Only an agreement clearly reflecting the commitment of the Pakistani government to the goals of Education for All, including facilitating girls’ access to education, can reassure them. A strong signal must be sent, so that everyone can once more benefit from education, which is a determining factor for their future and for the future of the country,” declared the Director-General of UNESCO Koďchiro Matsuura.

Mr Matsuura added: “Hostage-taking is never acceptable. But when the hostages are schoolboys and schoolgirls, the situation is even more shocking. The future of an entire country is taken hostage through its education system.”

In 2008, more than 150 schools were destroyed by the Taliban and their allies in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan. At least 99 of them were girls’ schools. In the Swat Valley, the Taliban decreed in December 2008 that all girls’ schools were to be closed by 15 January 2009. They announced that they would attack schoolgirls and girls’ schools after that date. Since that time, a ceasefire agreement has been signed by the Pakistani government and the main Taliban group in the region, the TTP. Schoolgirls can theoretically return to school, but many parents continue to be afraid to send their children to school, and a certain number of teachers have been absent. They have fled the region in recent weeks, and not all of them will return. Another very worrying event occurred on 2 March, with a suicide attack on a girls’ school in Baluchistan, another region of Pakistan.


Interview with Greg Mortenson: the man who builds schools in Pakistan, EduInfo March 2009 issue

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Experts gather to discuss education in emergencies, Turkey March 30 to April 3

UN General Assembly Calls for Strengthened Protection of Education in Emergencies

Thematic Factsheet on Education in Emergencies from the UN General Assembly Debate, 18 March

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