Women

03.26.13

Pakistani Teacher Becomes a Martyr for Girls’ Education

A 41-year-old teacher at a girls’ school in Pakistan was gunned down Wednesday, the latest to give her life to educate young women. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown calls for international action to ensure that her sacrifice was not in vain.

Shahnaz Nazli today became the latest martyr in the cause of girls education.

The victim of a Malala-style shooting in Pakistan, the 41-year-old woman teacher was murdered only a few minutes from the all-girls school she taught in near the town of Jamrud in Khyber tribal district, between the northwestern city of Peshawar and the Afghan border.

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Pakistani tribal residents walk past a NATO truck as it reportedly brings supplies from neighboring Afghanistan in Jamrud, in the tribal area of Khyber, Pakistan, on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. (Jibran Yousufzai/AP)

In a manner similar to the Malala shooting last October, she was shot by gunmen who fled after firing at her when she was about 200 meters from the school.

Taken to the local hospital by the head teacher, Shahnaz died from gunshot wounds after three hours of attempts to save her life.

This death is the latest in a wave of threats, intimidation, arson and shootings designed to prevent girls from going to school and teachers from teaching them.

Since Malala Yousefvai first raised the flag four years ago for girls' education by posting a blog, schools have been closed after being burned down or vandalized in many areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Teachers have been threatened. And girls themselves have been intimidated and assaulted simply because they want to go to school.

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Pakistani school children gather under a giant poster of Malala at the Khushal School for Girls patio where they are waiting to be collected before classes in Mingora, Swat Valley Pakistan. The poem which runs down one side of the poster talks about Malala's bravery, her smile and courage. Malala, was shot for her outspoken insistence on girls education and her two friends, Shazia Ramazan and Kainat Riaz where injured by a Taliban gunmen Oct 8, 2012. (Anja Niedringhaus/AP)

There are now communities in both Afghanistan and Pakistan where girls are too scared to attend school and where teachers have fled to safer areas.

There are allegations in one instance of pupils who have gone to school being poisoned to deter them from attending.

And in recent days, in advance of the May 11 elections, violence appears to have increased in northwest Pakistan. The elections will mark the first time an elected civilian government completes a full term in office.

After Malala was shot last October and left for dead, Pakistan lawmakers agreed to make girls' education universal and compulsory and provided $3 million in scholarships for out-of-school children. Now action has to be taken to ensure teachers' security against terrorists and I, like many others, have written to President Zadari calling for heightened safety measures to protect girls and teachers going to school.

And I am calling for a memorial to the contribution made by the deceased teacher Shahnaz Nazli to girls’ education.

In the face of violence, the world community must support all teachers who are determined to ensure girls have a right to go to school.

Sixty million teachers around the world will want to condemn the assassination of a woman teacher just because as a part of her vocation she wanted girls to be educated.

But on Malala Day, July 12, when the world will celebrate Malala’s 16th birthday, we have a chance to petition governments everywhere to ensure that 32 million girls who are not at school have the chance to attend.

It is now urgent we support girls education around the world. An international gathering in Washington, D.C. on April 18 should agree to measures to ensure we advance more quickly, free of threats to universal girls' education.

Plan International’s director in Pakistan, Rashid Javed, told us he suspected the shooting was part of a continuing targeted campaign that has seen numerous schools bombed in the region. In the face of this, it is now for the world community to show support for all girls and the teachers who are determined to ensure those girls have a right to go to school.