Peshwar: The courage of teen education campaigner Malala Yousufzai has renewed Pakistani students' determination to learn despite the poor state of the country's education system, undermined by poverty and under attack from Islamist militants.
Malala, 15, was shot in the neck and head, and two other girls sustained injuries when the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) opened fire on their school van in Swat valley on October 9. She was attacked for raising voice against Taliban oppression in Swat, and advocating girls' right to education. She is currently recovering in a British hospital.
Militants have destroyed hundreds of schools in recent years in Malala's hometown Mingora in Swat. According to officials, militants have destroyed four schools in the last week alone, reports the Daily Times.
"The insurgents mostly target girl's schools and order both teachers and students to stay inside their homes as per their version of Islamic teachings or face the dire consequences," said provincial information minister Iftikhar Hussain, adding that more than 700,000 students have been affected.
Naseem Baigam, a teacher at a government-run school in Peshawar, said the destruction of schools and the attack on Malala had frightened parents.
But students at the school said they were inspired by Malala, who rose to prominence with a blog for the BBC describing the atrocities of the Taliban, who terrorised the valley from 2007 until an army offensive in 2009.
"It is disappointing that Taliban are destroying schools. Such attacks are disturbing but Malala has given us courage to fight for the cause of education," said Saba Riaz, a final year student.
But it is not only militancy that schools in Pakistan have to contend with. Poverty is also a factor. More than a fifth of the population is classed as poor by the government, though activists believe the figure could be closer to 30 percent.
Pakistan's official literacy rate is 58 percent, with less than half of women able to read and write. It languishes near the bottom of the world literacy list, 159th out of 184 countries categorised by the UN Development Programme.