‘A river of tears’: Peshawar school attack survivors tell of their trauma
Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies, Safe schools
One year has passed. But the memories are hauntingly clear and the emotions still raw and jagged.
No one who was at the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan, on December 16, 2014, will ever be able to forget the nightmare that unfolded.
At 10.30am, seven Taliban gunmen entered the school and began killing students and staff. More than 130 children aged from eight to 18 died that day and many others were injured.
The scale of the attack shocked the world and was followed by candlelight vigils across Pakistan and other countries.
To mark the anniversary of the Peshawar school massacre, one of the Education Youth Ambassadors (EYA) from our partner organsiation Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (Education in Pakistan) talked to survivors about their experience and their hopes for the future.
Aisha Rasool interviewed three students at the Army Public School – and one of them also shared a beautiful poem.
Students and activists march to pay tribute to the victims
Aisha said: “I heard that the children of APS are still courageous, brave and bold and they are continuing their education with new zeal and zest. So I wanted to see the hope in children eyes again. For me, they are little warriors of education.
“After interviewing them I realised their faith, their motivation, their strengths, have been rejuvenated and are restoring day by day.”
Another EYA, Ahmad Ullah Khan, is a teacher from Peshawar who also tutors students from the school. His and the students’ moving stories are told here.
I was in 10th grade at the time. It was a normal day. The sun shone like it does every day.
I got up early because I had an award ceremony and I was pretty excited about that.
I don’t even know whether to call myself “lucky” or what. I was in a corridor when I heard my teacher shouting and asking me to go hide in my classroom.
Then I heard a sound that shook the earth for a while. I went to my class and found my class fellows sitting on the floor at the corner of the room – a few of them were crying.
Students at the school prepare for the first anniversary of the attack
I still remember how we were asking each other for forgiveness and reciting Kalma-e-Shahadat.
I managed to reach home safely where I found my mother crying. I turned off my mobile and went to sleep. I woke up around 4.30pm and turned on the TV.
I could see my friends going to the hospital injured. They were bleeding. You have no idea how it feels to see someone in that condition when you know them.
People say I’m the strongest person and yet I cried. I cried a lot. I couldn’t stop crying for days. We went to the school after a few days, where we found our beloved ma’am (who lost her child) teaching and there came a huge river of tears.
My parents told me to join another school but I honestly didn’t want to. I went through so much and now I couldn’t leave that place just like that.
People thought that I won’t be able to score well because of this horrible incident. But God helped me and I took my examination in those classes, In those buildings, and I was able to score 96% in my finals.
A poster in Peshawar ahead of the anniversary commemorations
I was in first year when this heart-rending incident took place. The day before everything was perfectly normal.
On the day of the attack, it was a holiday for the first year. I woke up finding everyone shattered and in tears. I was traumatised thinking of my friends who were still in school while it was under attack.
As time was passing, the number of deaths was rising and I could do nothing to save my close companions.
Being in school for me is getting knowledge and wisdom to overcome the problems which I have to encounter in the future. No matter what force tries to resist me from getting it.
The terror still lies in the heart of us, walking by the buildings of our college. But it motivates us to study even more and become what our fellows had once wished to be.
Education means everything. The feeling is like no other, all those memories.
To the terrorists my message is this: “You tried to kill us, instead you made us immortal. Our memory will live forever, giving strength and hope to all.”
Mourners outside the school after the attack last year
AHMAD ULLAH KHAN KHATTAK
December 16, 2014 was not only an attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar but on education as a whole.
I have been a teacher for four years. I have taught in Al-Hamza Public High School Peshawar and now I am also providing my services as a tutor in the evening. I teach children from class 5 to BSc level. They are from different schools but most of them are from Army Public School.
Mohsin Khan Shaheed was my student. I started to teach him when he was in 5th class. He was very intelligent and a good sportsman who loved to play cricket. He always had a smile on his face.
As usual, he got up early in the morning and went to school with his friends in their school bus. During the incident he was shot in the chest and head and died immediately.
His parents lost their child and I lost one of my brilliant students. Two of my students were also injured.
Education is right of every child, every human being. Some internal and external forces do not want our children to get educated and be a good Pakistani who can be an asset for our country in future.
As long as there is the sun and sky
As long as the birds can sing and fly
So long shall be our Garrison
Our home, our hearth is Garrison.
With the power of knowledge we vow
We are the torch bearers for now
We have to rise and never fall
We have to set the trends for all.
Our glorious past will guide the way
In the form of a new, a newer day
That is the way we’ll march and claim
Honour and glory, and world acclaim.
Together we stand, together we learn
Together we serve, together we earn
Garrisonians we are, we dare to be
The one and only ones are we.
Garrisonians we are, we’ll always be.
A year after the attack, are Pakistan’s schools safer?
A World at School Global Youth Ambassador reflects on the Peshawar school attack anniversary