Barakat’s 2nd Annual Walk for Literacy took place this weekend and it was a huge success! Walkers were ready to go at 10:30 and very enthusiastic to support literacy regardless of the rain!
The students from Pierce Elementary School were especially excited about the event. They spent the weeks leading up to the Walk raising money and promoting the event as well as writing a blog about their efforts.
Damon gave a brief introduction and thanked everyone for making it out to Cambridge followed by Habibullah Karimi who took the stage to discuss the cause and what it means to him. Habibullah is one of Barakat’s founders and he is originally from Afghanistan. Habibullah discussed the importance of educating youth as it enlightens individuals and brings light into their lives rather than darkness. He is a true believer in the power of education.
SherBaz Ali Khan was our next speaker, an intern at Barakat who is originally from Pakistan. He gave a very moving speech about the cause, its importance, what it means to him, and what it means to the people of South Asia. This event comes at a very unfortunate time for South Asia, particularly Pakistan, as schools have been shut down in the region following an attack by a suicide bomber on a university in Islamabad.
Moderate points of view are a common side effect of increased access to education and opportunity. It is proven that in communities of Afghanistan and Pakistan that have higher rates of literacy, the Taliban has less of an influence. With access to greater opportunities, it is less likely that individuals will be drawn to a militant organization such as the Taliban. It is no surprise then, that schools are often targeted for attacks. Education represents a threat.
Sherbaz went on to discuss how lucky we are here in the United States because the government would never shut down all of the schools in the country. Something like this is unheard of in America.
Arthur, a sixth grader, recently wrote in the Pierce School Walk for Literacy blog that learning about this situation “really makes you think about how lucky you are to live somewhere where you just have to fret about homework everyday, not war.”
Despite the risks that they face, girls continue to make great efforts to receive an education. The BBC’s Hunger to Learn series has followed the lengths that individuals will go to receive an education. In one instance, teachers were threatened by the Taliban after they had taken control of Swat but administrators decided to keep the school open regardless. They complied with demands by the Taliban that they all wear burkas and the Taliban agreed to allow the school to stay open. Unfortunately, the Taliban did not keep its promise and the school was destroyed shortly afterwards. Because the Swat Valley has come back under Pakistani control, this school was able to open again although it was not repaired.
Efforts by the Taliban have hindered students from achieving to their full potential and many fall behind in their studies. Despite these grim facts, many of the students and teachers have continued to attend their lessons and study in the shambles that were their classrooms because they truly recognize the value of an education.
Barakat is not immune to the threats that the Taliban imposes on students and teachers trying to advance their communities. Security for Barakat’s schools remains the number one issue both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Though threats from extremists do permeate the communities we serve and have negatively affected our school attendance, there is still substantial turnout from both boys and girls. This shows their bravery and their love of learning. Those who use violence against education are weak and misguided, and need education more than anything to realize the strongest connection: that of a community who pulls together peacefully for progress. Those who choose education are strong because strong people choose to communicate with words, respect, and peace.