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Pak schoolgirls defy Taliban to dream of flying

Seven-year-old Marwa cried and shook uncontrollably at the sight of the rubble and shattered glass remnants of her classroom. The Taliban had bombed yet another girls' school in Pakistan.

world Updated: Nov 17, 2011 01:08 IST

Seven-year-old Marwa cried and shook uncontrollably at the sight of the rubble and shattered glass remnants of her classroom. The Taliban had bombed yet another girls' school in Pakistan.

"I had to pick her up and hold her close to my chest. My worry is that we will spend our time helping the girls deal with fear instead of teaching them math and science," said head teacher Razia Begum.

Pakistan's Taliban movement, which is close to al Qaeda, has bombed hundreds of schools since 2007. Like Taliban militants in Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban want girls barred from education.

But the Taliban have failed to sell their violent philosophy to the vast majority of Pakistanis, and a campaign to terrify people into supporting militancy has had limited success, as the defiance at Government Girls Primary School No 3 illustrates.

The students - age 4 to 15 - are undoubtedly scared, and disappointed about the damage to their school in the town of Swabi. But some like Sara Ahmed, 9, don't need encouragement to come to school. The bubbly girl has high ambitions in Pakistan's conservative male-dominated society. "I want to be a fighter pilot," she said with a smile.