“I don’t know what is going to happen now. I’m not sure that we can recover from this.” So said a colleague this morning in the aftermath of yesterday’s dreadful shooting of Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Swat Valley resident who has been campaigning for several years for the right of girls like herself to go to school in the face of the Taliban’s vicious destruction of girls’ schools throughout this northwest region of Pakistan.
“For awhile I’ve been thinking that things would turn around,” my colleague said. “Now I’m not so sure.” He held his head in his hands and was close to weeping.
My friend is a lifelong educationist, dedicated not only to teaching his field but also to nurturing the freedom of inquiry and broad-minded perspective that Edwardes has been known for in the very different environment of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He’s also been a strong supporter of the co-education at Edwardes that began with a handful of women students in the late 1990s and now includes 228 women students.
My colleague knows an uncle of Malala and called him last night on the telephone. “Please pray for Malala,” said the uncle.
The horror of the attack on Malala and now the fragility of her struggle for recovery at the Combined Military Hospital here in Peshawar – just half a mile down the road from Edwardes – has ringed the world. It has also shaken the people of Pakistan. Newspapers and TV shows are full of stories about it.
A faculty member at Chapel this morning prayed at length for Malala in subdued tones that were marked by the grief of this event. People are personally affected. It is an especially vivid instance of the violence that has plagued this province for the last decade. The specific picking out of a 14-year-old girl on a bus – a girl well known for her courage and for her articulation of the issues – makes people shudder.
Another colleague, also a lifelong educationist, recounted how he wrote a Pashto poem in Malala’s honor several years ago. “There are three Malala’s who I brought into the poem,” he said. One was a Pakhtun woman during the Second Afghan War (1878-1880) who, when the Afghans were falling back in a particular battle, rallied them by singing a Pashto tapa from a hilltop. The second Malala he featured in the poem is a current member of the Afghan parliament who has struggled for democracy.
The third Malala is the one who was shot yesterday. When my colleague sent her the poem, she called him with thanks.
So many feel thankful to Malala. So many are now praying for her.