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A 12-Year-Old's Tale Beyond the APS Tragedy



In the tapestry of Pakistan's history, December 16, 2014, remains a dark thread woven with the pain of loss and the resilience of a nation. The haunting attack on the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar not only claimed innocent lives but also echoed far beyond the borders of that city. As a 12-year-old student in a military school in Karachi, I remember the shockwaves that reached our classrooms, forever altering our perception of education.


The APS attack, orchestrated by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), felt like a nightmare that transcended the boundaries of one school and one city. Even in Karachi, miles away from Peshawar, the fear crept into our young minds, making us wonder: Could our school, too, become a target? The secure walls that once defined our school now seemed fragile, and the routine chatter of the hallways was punctuated by hushed conversations about safety measures and the unthinkable reality that befell our peers in Peshawar.


As news of the tragedy spread, a cloud of sorrow descended upon our classrooms. We, the students, grappled with a newfound fear. The secure haven of our school, a place of laughter and learning, was now tinged with uncertainty. The question lingered in the air: How could such a tragedy happen in a space meant for education and growth?


Our teachers, with a blend of resilience and vulnerability in their eyes, faced the daunting task of calming our fears while navigating their own emotions. The syllabus, once the focus of our attention, took a backseat to discussions on unity, empathy, and the importance of standing together in the face of adversity. Were we, as students, equipped to comprehend the gravity of the situation?


In response to the APS attack, our school implemented security measures that were once unimaginable, as the school was already considered one of the safest. Guards at the entrance, ID checks, and regular security drills became the new normal. As a 12-year-old, I struggled to reconcile the innocence of my childhood with the stark reality that our education was now intertwined with the need for protection. Were these security measures a shield against an unseen enemy, or did they inadvertently highlight the vulnerability of our educational spaces?


The National Action Plan (NAP), launched by the government, also reached our classrooms. Lessons on tolerance, diversity, and the importance of dialogue became integral parts of our education. The curriculum underwent subtle but meaningful changes, reflecting a commitment to fostering a mindset that stood against the ideologies of hate. Yet, as I absorbed these lessons, I couldn't help but wonder: Can education truly dismantle the roots of extremism, or is this just another facade?


The trauma of the APS attack touched our emotional core. While we were physically distant from Peshawar, the emotional closeness was undeniable. Our school organized sessions with counsellors, acknowledging the emotional toll the events had on our young minds. It was during these moments that I, along with my classmates, discovered the strength that can be drawn from open conversations and shared grief. How could something as devastating as the APS attack also become a catalyst for empathy and emotional resilience?


In the years that followed, the resilience and unity that emerged from the APS tragedy became a part of our education. Candlelight vigils, peace walks, and art projects served as expressions of solidarity, connecting schools across Pakistan in a shared commitment to ensuring that the pursuit of knowledge would triumph over fear. As we participated in these activities, a lingering question persisted: Can collective expressions of grief and unity truly influence the trajectory of a nation, or are they just symbolic gestures?

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Thank you for sharing this, you mentioned your school offered psychological support however, the same facility was not extended to us in my school, which makes me think of how the ways in which such actions to such horrific incidents are varied. There is no one set response. The INEE minimum standards guidebook also mentions the need to give psychological support to not just any one institution but to all those which are affected by any turmoil. I love the anecdotes that you have mentioned. I also remember the one time we had to perform emergency drills in our school which made me question whether we came to school as a means to learn survival skills or to get education.…

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Wasey, you have done a great job at describing and capturing the emotions that went through the mind of the 12-year-old boy in the aftermath of the tragic APS incident. The blog captures the growing insecurity and fear across schools, parents and even children around Pakistan. I think it was very important to point out the fact that this incident generally took a heavy toll on every single individual in this country, while even schools took measures such as increasing security and started placing importance on building a more united and tolerant front. Additionally, I also appreciated that the questions that came to my mind while reading this such as the effectiveness of security measures and “education vs extremism” were…


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Thank you Wasey for sharing your personal experience regarding the changing atmosphere in school setting at the time of the APS attack. Personally, I could completely resonate with all the thoughts and emotions you were going through as a student myself. The school that we used to feel so safe and comfortable to go to, suddenly started feeling like a prison with all the barb wires and multiple guards located in every corner of the school with a rifle in their hand. I agree that maybe we did not have the same maturity and sense of reality that we have today however at that time we could still emphasize with the family of those children that were just like us…

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Thank you Mahnoor for sharing your experience, in my opinion, having an in-house counselor accessible to all students would be a crucial step forward. It's not just about physical safety but also addressing the emotional impact and I genuinely feel sorry that you guys were not given the right to what I feel like is a basic necessity after such tragedy. I can't help but question that shouldn't schools prioritize both aspects? I believe that implementing counseling sessions, making them readily available to students, and fostering an environment where discussing emotions is encouraged can contribute significantly to the healing process.


As a community, we need to emphasize the importance of mental health alongside physical security. It's time for Pakistani schools…


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Great blog Wasey. I can relate to the impact of the APS attack on a personal level, as my parents initially hesitated to let me attend school due to the pervasive fear that the tragedy brought to every household. It was only when my school in Karachi implemented additional security measures, including placing guards around the campus, that my parents felt comfortable sending me. Even then, their concern was evident through daily calls at school to ensure my safety.

Your observation about the potential of education to dismantle the roots of extremism is indeed thought-provoking. While education holds the power to bring about positive change by challenging prejudices and fostering critical thinking, it is essential to acknowledge its limitations. Addressing…

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Thank you for sharing you experience Esha, I completely understand the impact of the APS attack on your schooling. It's unfortunate how tragic events can instill fear, leading to necessary security measures in schools. While I agree that education has its limitations in addressing broader societal issues contributing to extremism, it remains a potent tool for fostering critical thinking and understanding. I'm curious about your thoughts on specific measures beyond the classroom that you believe are crucial in tackling the underlying societal issues fueling extremism.

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I remember the visual changes that took place in front of my eyes—the once secure walls of our school suddenly seemed fragile. The routine chatter in the hallways was replaced by hushed conversations about safety measures, and the unthinkable reality that befell our peers in Peshawar lingered in the air. I was scared, grappling with the question: Could our school, too, become a target?

The security measures implemented in response to the APS attack were drastic, even for a school already considered one of the safest. I remember since our school was already besides 3-4 other school within the same vicinity, the combined security measures of all schools seemed like our normal school suddenly became a military camp. Guards at…

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Your vivid account captures the stark transformation of your school post-APS attacks—from secure walls to a heightened awareness of vulnerability is something I relate to personally. The drastic security measures, even in an already safe school, turned it into what felt like a military camp, with guards, snipers, and drills becoming the new norm. Your reflection as a 13-year-old grappling with the juxtaposition of childhood innocence and the need for protection adds a personal touch. Your question, "Were these security measures a shield against an unseen enemy, or did they inadvertently highlight the vulnerability of our educational spaces?" is thought-provoking. How do you believe we can strike a balance between security and preserving the sanctity of educational spaces, especially for…

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