For the love of her school: ‘I told school attackers to burn me first’

Published: December 3, 2010
Gul-e-Khandana, a primary school headmistress in Matta. PHOTO: EXPRESS

Gul-e-Khandana, a primary school headmistress in Matta. PHOTO: EXPRESS

SWAT: While fear and terror in the valley of Swat pushed everyone into acquiescence, Gul-e-Khandana not only resisted the militants but also saved her school from being blown up.

Gul-e-Khandana, who hails from Matta tehsil, is the headmistress of a primary school for girls in Sijban, Matta. “I have intense love for this school. Where I now teach, I studied as a young girl in primary school,” she tells The Express Tribune.

She is the first woman from  her family who chose to work outside the house, despite family pressure. “My family did oppose me but I resisted them because I wanted the girls of my village to be educated. For the first two years, I taught without a salary,” she said.

Education and literacy have never fared very well in Swat and when the militants intensified their hold in the region, education suffered the most. While most residents took fright, Gul-e-Khandana refused to. “When the militants started bombing schools, I feared for my school. I decided to transfer the record and furniture of my school to my home,” Gul-e-Khandana recalls.

The situation only seemed to worsen as the government gradually lost its control, she said. “The militants banned education for girls and blew up the schools where they could study,” she said.

As expected, her school was also on the list of schools to be attacked. “When they came to attack my school, I ran to it frantically. As they prepared to torch it, I blocked their way and told them to burn me first,” she says. “With Allah’s blessing, they retreated and my school was safe.”

The militants then launched personal attacks on Gul-e-Khandana and her family. “They called us infidels and came to our home to take away the school’s furniture and records. My children, our whole family were petrified but I did not lose heart and refused to let them even touch it.”

Gradually, as militancy took root in Swat and it became impossible for people to live in Swat, Gul-e-Khandana and his family moved to Mardan. “I was heartbroken. All I could think about was my school, the alma mater of the girls of our village,” she said.

The family returned only after the army declared that Swat valley had been cleared of militants. “You will not believe it but I walked all the way from Mingora to Sijban, immediately after peace was restored in the valley,” Gul-e-Khandana says. “Security forces had not yet allowed people to enter Matta and they apprehended me too, but I went running to the school before even going home.”

It was the happiest moment of Gul-e-Khandana’s life when she saw that her schools building was intact. “I felt pure joy and happiness when I saw that my school’s building, although partially-damaged, was still standing,” she says. “Since that day, I began working for the school. The army, Unicef and Sarhad Rural Support Programme contributed towards repairing the building and restoring water supply. They also provided furniture for students and teachers.” Gul-e-Khandana also admitted girls from a nearby middle school, which had been torched.

She now lives peacefully in Matta with her husband and five children. “My only wish is that the women from this region receive good education and are able to stand on their feet so that they can also work towards a better future for our homeland,” Gul-e-Khandana says.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2010.

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Reader Comments (41)

  • Gulalai
    Dec 3, 2010 - 9:41AM

    Bravo! to Gule Khandana, and shame on those landlords, and influential Khans who fled and leave their people on the mercy of Militants, those land lords and cruel people again came and doing the same which they did before the Militnats in this valley, erradicate fuedalism, militancy will go vanish itselfRecommend

  • Adeel Ahmed
    Dec 3, 2010 - 9:48AM

    Salute to this woman… what a brave soul.
    May Allah give her all the respect and honour she deserves in this world and the Hereafter.
    inshAllah more and more such women will make this country a great nation.Recommend

  • Rizwan T Khan
    Dec 3, 2010 - 9:52AM

    Only a strong will alone can take you to the heights of success! Recommend

  • Dec 3, 2010 - 10:27AM

    Swat & Swabi – land of Yusufzai’s have always been the most peaceful districts of Pakhtunkhwa – Pakistan. From the times of Wali-e-Swat these people remained highly educated, learned and very hospitable. These Cruel Creatures who brought life to stand still molded these innocent Swati’s in the name of Islam. They (Swati’s as they are called) donated all there belongings including cash & jewelry, showing there innocence and love for Islam. In return they got Torture, Harm and Misery.Recommend

  • ZZQ
    Dec 3, 2010 - 10:41AM

    Indeed, Bravo to the lady! May Allah SWT reward her for her efforts.

    Question again is… how come the main stream religious parties (some of them having massive support in the educated urban Pakistan) still back such militancy and defend Taliban era in Afganistan that also followed the same practice as of TTP.

    No where in Islam, women are disallowed their right to education.

    Only because of illiteracy, we find todays dacoits taking terms on the helms of this country time and again.Recommend

  • IZ
    Dec 3, 2010 - 11:44AM

    Now here is a true hero of Pakistan and a true hero of Islam. It is through the efforts of people like her that we will emerge from the dark ages that we are currently stuck in.Recommend

  • Zulfiqar
    Dec 3, 2010 - 11:50AM

    an underground agenda is working against the solidarity of PakistanRecommend

  • ik
    Dec 3, 2010 - 12:02PM

    THE Taleban can be defeated by A Gul-e-Khandnaa – Let the Pakistan Govt. take some lessons here (along with the military) Recommend

  • John
    Dec 3, 2010 - 12:16PM

    Well puritanical Islam and girl education are mutually exclusive. Kudos to Gule Khandana for proving good words and non-violence is mightier than violence !Recommend

  • Dec 3, 2010 - 2:42PM

    A hero right here!Recommend

  • Anonymous
    Dec 3, 2010 - 3:03PM

    wow! what a go-getter. she is such a breath of fresh air in today’s suffocating Pakistan. and we in the cities just sit and complain about the potholes on the roads and the ‘uneducated masses’ ! Recommend

  • Nwaq
    Dec 3, 2010 - 3:36PM

    Salute to this brave woman,she is an exemplary woman for every one of us.I think the low literacy rate in Pakistan is one of the reason that keeps us away from developing.Her story is a breath of fresh air in present gloomy situation of our beloved country.May she live long.Long live Pakistan.Recommend

  • Jan
    Dec 3, 2010 - 4:54PM

    Excellent! ladyRecommend

  • Raaz
    Dec 3, 2010 - 5:35PM

    if such people exists in this world with valor and courage than they should be promoted with honuor for their braveryRecommend

  • Humanity
    Dec 3, 2010 - 5:58PM

    Pakistani men should sit at home with henna on their hands, feet and beards. They should let the women run the country. The women can turn it around the motherland to become a safe, progressive respectable place.Recommend

  • Amjad Ali Sahaab
    Dec 3, 2010 - 5:59PM

    I salute to her courage. We really need such courageous women in our society. Once again fazal has picked a nice story. very well done, keep it up Recommend

  • Zia ud Din Yousafzai
    Dec 3, 2010 - 5:59PM

    Ka da zalmo na pora na shwa ! Grana watana jenakai ba de gatena…………..
    We are all proud of GuliKhandana.Recommend

  • Dec 3, 2010 - 6:12PM

    Hard to find word to thank you – Gul-e-Khandana. Thank you so much for your courage and the determination to eduacte the daughters of this nation. You are the spark of light in the dark night, we feel proud of you. Recommend

  • Talat Haque
    Dec 3, 2010 - 6:27PM

    Gul e Khandana, so, so proud of you …….. true courage ! Recommend

  • Dec 3, 2010 - 6:51PM

    slam to brave Gul. she has done a great job for the land. There are hundreds of such stories and we need to bring that to the surface, so that the world may know how much we love our land.

  • Farhat
    Dec 4, 2010 - 6:00AM

    hats off to Gul e Khandana… she showed some spine in a country of spineless leaders…Recommend

  • khan
    Dec 4, 2010 - 10:55AM

    lets cheer Gule Khandana together. cheerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrRecommend

  • Uzma
    Dec 4, 2010 - 8:41PM

    What a wonderful lady is she. We need to appreciate her for this matter and also the moral and financial support. she has set an exampleRecommend

  • Anwar Khan
    Dec 6, 2010 - 11:55AM

    This is a real picture and true reflection of courage from a brave daughter from Swat, We now need to encourage, support and help them to fight extremism.Recommend

  • anonymous
    Dec 6, 2010 - 5:29PM

    This is called spirit. We owe you too much!Recommend

  • Dec 6, 2010 - 6:24PM

    VIVA ! BRAVO ! Gul e Khandana. My family and myself, we respect and admire your determination and courage. It is people like you who carry the day and become legends in their lifetime.

    You deserve the highest civilian award the GoP has in its gallery of heroes and heroines.

    May ALLMIGHTY ALLAH always bless you and give you and your beloved family Taqwa and a long and healthy life. Ameen.

    Salams and best wishes.Recommend

  • HIK
    Dec 6, 2010 - 9:33PM

    These are the female idols young girls should look upto.Recommend

  • Dec 7, 2010 - 1:53AM

    What a beautiful soul, committed to the teachings of the Last Prophet (pbuh) – seeking to learn to improve herself and the people around her. May Allah reward such youth for the light they give to people who are being persecuted and manipulated by mullahs and assorted power hungry bloodsuckersRecommend

  • Ahmed Jehanzeb
    Dec 7, 2010 - 4:28AM

    What a brave person this awe-inspiring lady is. Hoping she gets all the help and more. They should build a school in her name and honor. Recommend

  • shah nawaz khan
    Dec 7, 2010 - 9:27AM

    gul khandana show her bravity in that era because some well known person of swat run away that time Recommend

  • Arshad Mahmood
    Dec 8, 2010 - 2:18PM

    Great work and commitment and shows that if one is committed to the cause nothing can stop. Keep it up!Recommend

  • Sonam
    Dec 8, 2010 - 3:28PM

    You are indeed a great woman!!I salute you!Recommend

  • Sher Ghazi
    Dec 9, 2010 - 11:16AM

    I salute this lady teacher who contributing to elimanating the terrorism from the valley, with out female education we are not able to contribute some thing for our nation and country.Recommend

  • Schazad
    Dec 16, 2010 - 10:45PM

    All my respect n pride for u. Shame on all the men in the area who are no better than some herd of stupid animals running out of the area and not standing up to injustice and cruelty. Indeed you are my hero. Why is this news on regional page of this website??? I am telling you, this land of pure is full of bigots and cowards. I salute you Gul-e-Khandana. Your deeds are just like you name.Recommend

  • Dec 17, 2010 - 5:24PM

    I reallly salute this woman from the core of my heart..
    She is a brave woman from a brave nation…
    These militants are nothing…They are the intelligence people of India, Musad and others.
    All we need to get rid of them is to just be One and copy the path of this woman…
    If you go through to our recent past. The enemy intelligence agencies has been trying to hit our social, educational, cultural and economical status one by one…Its a huge conspiracyRecommend

  • Azmat Ali Khan
    Dec 23, 2010 - 1:57PM

    *My Name is Azmat Ali Khan belong to Swat Matta.I am a Student of BBA(HONS) Agricultural University Peshawar.When I read your Interview I am very glad that you are the ist Women of Khyber Pakhtoon Khwa prove that you are the real Hero of are a brave women from brave nation.Our country need a women just like you.You are the intillecual,telented,peaceful,and brave women.I salute you.
    Best of luck.*Recommend

  • Waqar
    Dec 24, 2010 - 6:17AM

    All praise due to Allah Almighty for raising such brave women and may the Almighty raise many more, Inshallah.

    To the moderator, can you email me the school’s address, I would like to donate a parcel of childrens’ books for her school. Thankyou.Recommend

  • Fazal Khaliq
    Dec 24, 2010 - 12:03PM

    @ Wqar. located on the main road from Arkot to Peochar valley. The school name is Government Primary School Sijban UC Arkot Matta SwatRecommend

  • Waqar
    Dec 24, 2010 - 5:04PM

    Thankyou so much Fazal for your quick reply, may Allah Most Gracious and Most Merciful bless and reward you and your family for your efforts. I will be asking family and friends to contribute too.


  • zaheer
    Dec 28, 2010 - 2:31PM

    we need like these brave women,,in especialy education sector, so that our childerns be educated.Recommend

  • Aisha Majeed
    Dec 31, 2010 - 2:56PM

    Great Gulkhandana all nof my respect are for u. i salute ur great corage. gulkandana is such a greaaaaaaaaat ladyRecommend

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