Pakistan’s Swat Valley is often called the Switzerland of Pakistan. But its beauty was lost for many years to the rampages of the Taliban occupation and consequent anti-terrorism operations in the region. We barely hear the words technology and Swat in the same sentence because the provincially mismatched resources often make it seem like only urban centers can be hubs of discovery and growth. However, students in Swat are currently proving everyone wrong. A science fair is currently underway, which is a beautiful demonstration of the resilience of the Swat Valley inhabitants. It also shows the willpower of the people to change their circumstances after years of violence in the region. The two-day Swat Science Fair has been organized by Udhyaana, Swat Education Department and Pakistan Alliance for Maths and Science.
Here is one of the main organizers and founders of Udhyaana, talking about the festival.
Meet Dr Jawad Iqbal — an inspirational figure from Swat — he is the brains behind the #SwatScienceFestival and founder of @Udhyaana
Here he talks about what the event signifies for the schoolchildren of Swat
Udhyaana was Swat’s name during the Buddhist era pic.twitter.com/UJX58z8aSI
— omar r quraishi (@omar_quraishi) April 18, 2018
Students from various schools participated, both girls and boys, which was a welcoming sight for an otherwise gendered society. Where girls often have to stay behind, just so that their brothers can excel at school.
These students are attempting to break the #WorldRecord for the largest science lesson! The air is buzzing with energy! Good luck! #SwatScienceFestival pic.twitter.com/NwLK1SuOWN
— Nimra Tariq (@Nimra_T01) April 17, 2018
Proud of students especially girls from my hometown Swat showing their talent in science. Well done! @udhyaana #SwatScienceFestival pic.twitter.com/eU0Mp2KLdG
— Malala (@Malala) April 17, 2018
Several interesting projects were seen, which are reflective of the formidable brain power of youth in Swat.
Anwar Ali broke the TV remote and made this remote control car. He said his parents initially showed anger but later when they saw this car they asked him to make more cars!????#SwatScienceFestival@EducationKP @@mosharrafzaidi @ZiauddinY @RehamKhan1 @mehreenzahra @AtifKhanpti pic.twitter.com/8zYV8jlu1w
— Farhad Jarral (@farhadjarralpk) April 18, 2018
Muskan Sarfaraz prepared this global ice cream and explains that the World is melting like an ice cream. She seeks attention of global leaders to take immediate actions to stop global warming. #SwatScienceFesival @EducationKP @ZiauddinY @MuhammadLila @aher5 @gabeeno @Malala pic.twitter.com/vOyuvcYJZ5
— Udhyana (@Udhyaana) April 17, 2018
Water filtration plant prepared by girls in Swat, presented for display at #SwatScienceFestival pic.twitter.com/LV2RX0x0rW
— Faizan Lakhani (@faizanlakhani) April 17, 2018
They put ice in a box and made an AC! GHS Qambar’s Maaz Khan at the #SwatScienceFestival pic.twitter.com/kMJ1G1n7Jn
— Mahim Maher (@Mahim_Maher) April 17, 2018
Swat is Malala’s hometown, where she was shot by the Taliban in 2012. Her struggles and consequent activism aren’t hidden from the world.
Guess what? In Pakistan’s Swat Valley – the same place the Taliban tried to silence @Malala and shut down girls’ schools – hundreds of girls are now competing in a huge science festival #SwatScienceFestival @Udhyaana #GirlsInSTEM pic.twitter.com/kUqSRz75Ba
— Muhammad Lila (@MuhammadLila) April 16, 2018
No doubt, Malala’s struggles have enabled a positive wave of energy to envelop Swat in terms of better education for its inhabitants. Parents are now more aware and are sending their girls to school willingly. Some students, however, are crediting the Swat Science Festival to their teachers. More qualified teachers are enabling students to realize their potential to the fullest. All this coupled with better resources has resulted in a thriving atmosphere of learning at the Swat Science Fair.
What is most refreshing it the lack of all forms of politics from the narrative that is forming on social media, particularly Twitter. No photo-op by politicians, no political motivations behind the Swat Science Fair. Just students, teachers, and parents coming together to build the society from the ground up. The Swat Science Fair has put theoretical learning in tandem with practical application and it is certainly a milestone worth celebrating for Swat’s socio-economic development.