In the wake of the Peshawar attack, a web movement to build 141 new schools across Pakistan – one in the memory of each victim – went viral. The Citizens Foundation (TCF), my former employer in Karachi, has committed to build all the schools. It needs to raise $21m (£14m) to build the schools.
The response to this movement – led by civil society and independent of the Pakistani government – has been palpable. It received individual commitments to build four of the schools in just the first three days, and at least 16,000 people around the world have pledged their support. TCF believes it can reach the target in three years, which is likely given its record of building 70 to a 100 schools a year. The first school will open its doors in 2015.
This is just one initiative, but perhaps the best tribute possible to the students and teachers who were giving and receiving the one thing that directly undercuts the criminal ignorance that took their lives. Pakistan can beat extremism but it cannot do it without reforming its broken education system; breathing life in each one of its ghost schools; rewriting the national curriculum to reflect progressive and tolerant values; and putting every single child into school.
Nelson Mandela told us, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” It won’t be the first time.
As a wave of outrage, crossing Pakistan’s national borders, continues a month after the Dec. 16 attack on a school in the northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, some citizens are turning away from collective expressions of anger, and beginning the hard work of building grassroots alternatives to terrorism and militancy.
While many millions of people are lashing out at the Taliban for going on a bloody rampage in a school in the province’s capital, Peshawar, killing 141 people including 132 uniformed children in what is being billed as the group’s single deadliest attack to date, The Citizens Foundation (TFC), a local non-profit, has reacted quite differently.
"With the formidable challenges facing the nation, we passionately believe that only education has the power to enlighten minds, instil citizenship and unleash the potential of every Pakistani." -- Syed Asaad Ayub Ahmad, CEO of The Citizens Foundation (TCF)
Rather than join the chorus calling for stiff penalties for the attackers, it busied itself with a pledge to build 141 Schools for Peace, one in the name of each person who lost their life on that terrible day.
“We dedicate this effort to the children of Pakistan, their right to education and their dreams of a peaceful future,” Syed Asaad Ayub Ahmad, CEO of TCF, said in an email launching the campaign.
“With the formidable challenges facing the nation, we passionately believe that only education has the power to enlighten minds, instil citizenship and unleash the potential of every Pakistani,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, February 1st, 2015
On December 16, 2014, Peshawar was struck by a heinous act of terrorism. One hundred and thirty-two children were massacred in cold blood, along with several others. The attack ignited a wave of outrage amongst civil society members who vowed to unite against the Taliban and those sympathetic towards them. Amidst this wave of emotion, Zaki Patel, an average Pakistani, decided to take a more concrete step and pledged to open up a school for each life lost and to bring education to areas that might not have access to it otherwise.
By Hurmat Majid
By Ali Zafar, Special for CNN (March 15, 2015)
Pakistan is a beautiful land with beautiful people who -- like those in any other nation -- want to live in harmony with themselves and the world. A place where people sing, dance and play. Unfortunately because of an extremist minority, it is sometimes seen as an extremist country. But no society is void of extremism in one way or the other. This is something that we all need to work towards -- the international community and us. Pakistan needs your help. It has been fighting this battle for years and lost countless lives in the process. Its economy has also suffered. The world needs to see Pakistan in a whole different light to help us out of this darkness. They need to partner with us towards progress. They need to understand the complexities of this society and the fact that it's not easy to survive through all that this country has been through.
Today the entire nation stands as one for this cause. And that is what I have tried to show the world in this video. A Pakistan that stands united to make sure that the lives of those innocent children did not go to waste.
I also didn't want this to be just a song. I wanted to practically help towards a cause dear to me -- education. So, I collaborated with a leading Pakistani educational non-profit organization, The Citizens Foundation (TCF) and 141schools.org (141 SCHOOLS), a new citizen web movement. Together, they are building 141 schools across Pakistan. Each school will be dedicated to the children and teachers who lost their lives in attack on December 16, 2014. All proceeds from the downloads of the song will go towards building schools for the children of Pakistan and ensuring a bright future.
I aspire to build at least one school which would cost around 20.7 million pkr ($202,900). If you want to help, click here.