‘Burka Avenger’ to Fight for Girls’ Education in Pakistan

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August 29th, 2013 No Comments Other

Last October a Taliban gunman shot teenager Malala Yousafzai in the head for campaigning for the right of girls to go to school in her home town in Swat Valley, northwest Pakistan.

Yousafzai survived the attack and earlier this month delivered a powerful speech at the UN in New York in which she vowed not to be silenced by terrorists.

Now, another voice is making itself heard—in the form of a mild-mannered teacher who moonlights as an education superhero.

Assisted by three schoolchildren, the Burka Avenger fights local gangsters attempting to close down the girls’ school where she works. Her weapon of choice to ward off the evil Baba Bandook and his henchmen is a large fountain pen or a heavy textbook.  

The Urdu-language action-comedy cartoon series is set to debut on Pakistani television next month. Aaron Haroon Rashid, one of Pakistan’s biggest pop stars, conceived the series as a medium through which to emphasize the importance of girls’ education, according to Australia Network News.

While set in the fictional town of Halwapur, the world of the Burka Avenger will resonate in Pakistan, where Taliban militants have prevented thousands of girls from going to school in the country’s northwest and have attacked activists campaigning for girls’ education.

Throughout Pakistan, nearly half of all children and nearly three quarters of young girls are not enrolled in primary school, according to UN and government statistics published late last year.

Official statistics released by the Federal Education Ministry of Pakistan reveal an overall literacy rate of 46 per cent, while only 26 per cent of girls are literate. Independent sources and educational experts, however, are skeptical. They place the overall literacy rate at 26 per cent and the rate for girls and women at 12 per cent, contending that the higher figures include people who can handle little more than a signature.

UNICEF cites poverty as another big hurdle in girls’ education. 17.6 per cent of Pakistani children are working and supporting their families, and a majority of them are girls.

According to Eldis.org, girls’ education features in all government education policy documents. However, actually including girls in the state educational system cannot be ensured in a context where the state education system suffers from fundamental structural problems, such as inadequate funding, a project based instead of sector wide approach to educational policy planning, the political rather than merit-based appointment of teachers, and a lack of political will.

The UN speech earlier this month was attended by a large number of prospective Pakistani students and their parents along with representatives of academia.

The audiences showed keen interest in Australian universities and were excited to meet and discuss with the representatives of Australian universities about possible opportunities, according to The Express Tribune.

Eight Australian universities participated in the event and their representatives shared information about scholarships opportunities, admission requirements, and pre-requisites for study visa with the students.

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Saga Briggs is Managing Editor of InformED. You can follow her on Twitter@sagamilena or Facebook.

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