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10:35 PM July 15th, 2013

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By: Juan L. Mercado, July 15th, 2013 10:35 PM

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Philippine government signed a wealth-sharing formula Saturday. It’s  another step towards turning swords, in a rebellion that killed and maimed thousands and stalled Mindanao’s promise as an island of bounty, into plough-shares. That made the morning papers.

The Supreme Court shredded Eduardo Cojuangco’s claim to more slabs of the coconut levy. Government will sell P14 billion worth of stocks and create a trust fund for coconut farmers. “What does it profit a man if he grabs the levy but in the end have the poor piss on his grave?” That hit the evening newscasts.

These reports can obscure other significant accounts that make for balance. Read the United Nations speech delivered  last week by a 16-year-old girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting education for girls.

On Oct. 9, 2012, a Taliban gunman hit Malala Yousafzai as she rode on a school bus, after taking an exam in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. Two other students were wounded. Ehsanullah Ehsan, Pakistani Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack. Yousafzai “is the symbol of the infidels,” he said, adding that if she survived, the Taliban would target her again. Since the Malala ambush, the Taliban has attacked more than 800 schools.

“They thought that the bullets would silence us,” Malala  told young leaders from 100 countries at the UN Youth Assembly last week. “But they failed…. And out of that silence came thousands of voices (seeking) to live in peace, to be treated with dignity… to be educated.

“Nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage (were)  born. I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. My dreams are the same.”

“By targeting Malala, extremists showed what they feared the most: a girl with a book,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the youth assembly. “Malala is calling on us to keep our promises—invest in young people and put education first.”

“She has inspired many millions of people, particularly young people. This world is very young. More than half the global population is young people under the age of 25…. Still, 57 million young people are out of school. When it comes to secondary education, more than 100 million people are out of school. This is not acceptable,” Ban Ki-moon added.

This  year’s “Children Battling To Go To School” report found that nine out of 10 kids don’t get a primary school education. They live in low and lower-middle income countries. Girls make up 55 percent of the total. They’re often the victims of rape and other sexual violence. “Armed conflict continues to destroy schools and also the hopes of a whole generation of children.”

(President Aquino has proposed, in his 2013 budget, that the allocation for education be jacked up 22 percent—from P238.8 billion to P292.7 billion. This could scrub all resource gaps—classrooms, teachers, textbooks and other facilities by next year, the President anticipates. The proposed education budget is the highest allocation given to a government department.)

“Malala Day is not my day,” the 16-year-old schoolgirl told the jampacked UN Assembly Hall.  “Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights.

“Thousands have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them.… I speak not for myself, but so those without a voice can be heard for their rights to live in peace, to be treated with dignity, to be educated.

“(I do) not seek personal revenge, I am here to speak for the right of education for every child (including) the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists…. This is the compassion I (learned) from Mohammed, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. This the legacy of change I inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

“This is the philosophy of nonviolence that I have learned from Gandhi… Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I learned from my father and  mother. This is what my soul is telling me: Be peaceful and love everyone….We realize the importance of light when we see darkness. We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced….

“The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them.

“‘Why are the Taliban against education?’  a boy in our school was asked by a journalist  He answered very simply by pointing to his book, saying: ‘A Talib doesn’t know what is written inside this book.’

“They think that God is a tiny, little conservative being who would point guns at people’s heads just for going to school. These terrorists are misusing the name of Islam for their own personal benefit….

“We call upon all governments to ensure free, compulsory education all over the world for every child. We call upon all to support the expansion of education opportunities for girls. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back… We must not forget that millions are suffering from poverty, injustice and ignorance. We must not ignore the millions of children who are out of schools. They wait for a bright, peaceful future.

“No one can stop us. We will speak up for our rights and we will bring change with our voice. We believe in the power and the strength of our words. Our words can change the whole world because we are all together….

“To struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, let us pick up our books and our pens. They are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education first.”

(E-mail: juan_mercado77@yahoo.com)

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