IT’S HOW I HAVE ALWAYS FELT WHEN A CHILD IS A VICTIM. WHY COULDN’T IT BE ME INSTEAD? WHY COULDN’T I BEAR THE SUFFERING SO THAT INNOCENT CHILDREN WOULD NOT BE HURT?
I know that I am not alone in feeling this way and I know that these thoughts are futile. It is only through the work of rescuing children from abusive situations, from uniting children with their families and helping them rebuild their future that I have been able to sometimes find temporary peace.
Many children, however, are not reunited with their parents. They do not have bright futures. This is the tragedy we witnessed one week ago in Peshawar on an unimaginable scale. Though I have seen much pain and suffering, though I am aware of many attacks on school children and schools, the events in Peshawar shocked me anew at how much work we have to do and how much more loudly we must work together to protect children—to protect their right to a future free from violence.
These children—like many other children attacked in schools in Pakistan, like the girls of Chibok Nigeria, like the displaced children from wars and emergencies around the world—these children are all of our children. And we must accelerate our efforts to come together for them.
We must emulate the brave young women Malala Yousafzai, Shazia and Kainat who themselves survived a Taliban attack in Pakistan, and continue to campaign everyday so that others might have a safe future and realise their right to education.
In November, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, I joined United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, campaigner and co-founder of A World at School, Sarah Brown as well as Shazia and Kainat at the UK launch of the #UpForSchool petition to create a message that no leader can ignore. My hope is that by adding the power of millions of voices to an effort focused on getting all children everywhere access to safe, quality education, we will continue to shine a light on, and protest together the injustices and violence that keep children from being safe—from having a childhood. This includes combating the gross injustice of an international community somehow set on underfunding efforts to get the most marginalised and at risk children a seat in a safe classroom. So while we mourn, we must stay standing. We must not accept that children should be afraid to go to school or that children should be kept out of school by poverty, violence, discrimination or terrorism. We must all lend our voices to efforts to support safe schools and save the lives and futures of all children—of our children.
We know that we cannot take the place of children who suffer and we accept this only because we have no choice. But in everything else, in whether or not we raise our voices, pressure our leaders and fight for children—in that we most certainly have a choice. Outrage over the massacre of 132 children this week has prompted a million people to sign the #UpForSchool petition.
A unique movement of organisations, including global campaign organisation Avaaz, Global March Against Child Labour and A World at School have come together behind a clear bold call for action—the right for all children to go to school without danger or discrimination.
Education is the most powerful weapon to fight extremism and terrorism. The forces attacking schools and killing our children are clearly feeling threatened and cornered. They are trying to demolish humanity at an insane and inhuman low, but the power of innocence, knowledge and compassion can never be undermined. Education is the only ray of hope for bailing out the ailing society. Let us together resolve that education for our children will not be overshadowed by fear and their childhood not trampled by terror.