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Malala Yousafzai’s powerful speech at the UN about the need for universal education has had a reaction in her home country of Pakistan, but not one you would have expected. Thanks to the efforts of Pakistani pop star Aaron Haroon Rashid, the Burka Avenger, a new cartoon, featuring a burka wearing school teacher/super hero will premier in August on Pakistani TV. In the show, the teacher uses her martial arts skills to fight against an evil sorcerer (who looks a lot like a Taliban commander) and a corrupt politician to keep her school open and ensure education for all.
While this is a positive sign, many critics outside the country have pointed to issues besides the Taliban that are also greatly hindering universal education. Government inaction, corruption, malnutrition and other issues all contribute to a huge problem with education in Pakistan. Of the five million primary school age children, one in four does not attend school and half of those who do, drop out before the end of third grade.
Even more disturbing is a public opinion poll that was conducted in early 2013 that found that the majority of the public did not blame the Taliban for shooting Malala. Whether the country is under some sort of spell, likes the idea of keeping women uneducated, or is deathly afraid of Taliban retribution is unclear. But when a Taliban gunman shoots an innocent teenager in the head because she wanted to get educated and then the public doesn’t blame the Taliban, well you have to wonder what forces are at work in such a society. As a western person writing about a foreign culture, I can’t claim deep understanding of that culture, but one does tend to assume certain universal beliefs. Among them would be that shooting unarmed children is bad. Or did I miss something?
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Still image courtesy of AP Photo/Sebastian Abbot.