Children cried and shook uncontrollably at the sight of the rubble and shattered glass remnants of their classroom. The Taliban had bombed yet another girls' school in Pakistan.
The explosion on November 15 in Swabi, a rural agricultural region in Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, was a violent reminder of the extremes that the Pakistani Taliban is willing to go to in order to prevent girls from receiving an education.
The bomb set off in the red and white brick school complex was so powerful that it stopped wall clocks at the time of the blast -- nineteen minutes past midnight -- and left classrooms in ruins.
This incident is just one of many similar attacks.
The Pakistani Taliban has bombed hundreds of schools since launching a campaign to topple the U.S.-backed government in 2007.
On November 22, a police officer was killed and eight others were injured as they attempted to defuse a bomb planted outside a girls school in Mardan District, west of Swabi.
'We Are Not Afraid'
But while the Taliban's messages are being sent loud and clear, they are not always being received as intended.
Students at the school in Swabi, located 75 kilometers northwest of the capital, Islamabad, are certainly disappointed about the damage to their school.
Some of them, aged four to 15, express fear; others insist they aren't scared. But they are certainly determined to keep studying.
Instead of listening to lectures at their old wooden desks, the girls are now studying outside, sitting on the grass in a courtyard, until workers can clear away the rubble and shattered glass.
"Whoever is doing these bombings, they think that they can scare girls, but we are not afraid and we will continue our education," says ten-year-old Sumaira Saleem, who wants to be a teacher.
"Our teachers love us and we will continue to pursue our studies. We want to be somebody. We will continue our education no matter what. We are not afraid of bombing."
Walking Several Kilometers To School
In the ideal world of the Taliban, women are covered from head to toe, learn only how to cook and clean and to take care of their husbands and children, and rarely venture outside the home.
That is not the ideal of students like 8-year-old Sarah Khan, who walks several kilometers to attend Swabi's School No. 3.
"I want to be a jet fighter pilot so that I can do something for my country and my nation," she says. "And [I want to help] get rid of terrorism and extremism from this country."
Sarah is well aware of how ruthless the Taliban can be, often overhearing her parents speak of how the Taliban kidnap and behead people.
But her education is of the utmost importance to her, and could be key to her country's future.
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