Asia Scope

From Numbers to Faces–‘Hunger to Learn’ Takes Us There

The latest militant attack in Pakistan’s Swat valley is only the most recent in a series of violent acts in the region over the past several weeks. In the heat-of-the-moment, it is understandably difficult to get exact numbers for the killed and injured–the NY Times has so far reported 30 casualties, while the BBC cited 40 for yesterday’s incident. But in such crises, tragedies get boiled down to statistics, raising the prospect that we are inevitably going to be objectifying human lives.

In contrast, a current BBC series called ‘Hunger to Learn’ does the opposite. The reports focus on highlighting the voices of individuals, taking the unique angle of showing the extraordinary ‘lengths children go to get an education’ around the world.

The newest story, ‘Swat Valley Girls,’ investigates the issue of Pakistani girls who are being targeted by Taliban militants for receiving an education. Three hundred schools in the Swat region have already reportedly been destroyed by militant attacks. And one student paints a terrifying picture of the current situation: ‘They said if we didn’t close the school they would blow it up with all of us in it.’ This reminded me of a CBC article from earlier this week (‘Afghan Women’s Freedom in Jeopardy’) which reported that even with two million Afghan girls attending school, women there still face rates of violence that are ‘are among the highest in the world.’

Another ‘Hunger to Learn’ report (‘The Youngest Headmaster in the World’) earlier this week featured the story of a 16 year-old West Bengali teenager who runs free afternoon classes for 800 poverty-stricken children out of his backyard.

One comment in response to the piece speaks for itself:

‘Babar Ali gives me hope that there is an India that is fighting and beating the odds…gives me hope that one day millions of such Indians will be empowered through education to take charge of their own destiny. I salute every Babar Ali that pushes India forward every single day.’ (India)

And another:

A little ray of light in all that darkness. I reckon this guy deserves the Nobel Prize for peace right now. Obama could have waited a year.’ (Japan)