This month the United Nations secretary-general appointed Malala Yousafzai as a UN Messenger of Peace to promote girls education, an acknowledgement of the courage and passion of millions of students who take great risks to learn in the face of adversity and conflict. Access to education in Pakistan, for girls and boys, remains deeply compromised. Human Rights Watch’s March 2017 report, “Dreams Turned into Nightmares’: Attack on Students, Teachers, and Schools in Pakistan”, documents militant violence that has disrupted the education of hundreds of thousands of children, particularly girls.
Pakistan’s militant Islamist groups, including the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and their affiliates, use attacks on schools and universities to foster intolerance and exclusion, to target symbols of the government, and, particularly, to drive girls out of school. The Pakistani government does not collect specific data on the number of attacks on schools and universities. However, according to the Global Terrorism Database, there were 867 attacks on educational institutions in Pakistan from 2007 to 2015, resulting in 392 fatalities and 724 injuries. The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack recorded at least 838 attacks on schools between 2009 and 2012, leaving hundreds of schools damaged.