Like “Michelle, ma belle” , the title of this post also borrows from a song by The Beatles. Another powerful woman in the world of politics has spoken out about the appalling abduction of the scores of Nigerian girls by the Islamic gang, Boko Haram. This is what The Global Partnership for Education chairwoman, Julia Gillard


had to say on the issue:

Ms Gillard says the abductions of schoolgirls in Nigeria by Boko Haram militants should act as an alarm bell for the threat of extremism and also a catalyst for protecting education. That it is “the subject of such dedicated assault by terrorists and extremists” shows the potency and importance of education in such communities, she says. “They obviously believe education is powerful, so powerful that they want to deny it to those girls. This truly shocking circumstance in Nigeria has focused world attention on something that is happening more broadly, that education is under attack. I hope it not only galvanises the world to come to the aid of the schoolgirls in Nigeria, but it galvanises the world to make sure that the power of education is extended to children even in the most difficult of circumstances.”

In this lengthy passage dedicated to the abduction she referred to “militants”, “terrorists” and “extremists”. But, just like Michelle Obama, she neglected to mention one absolutely central aspect of the story. At the risk of stating the obvious I will just reiterate that the truly shocking circumstance in Nigeria was brought about by a group of devout Muslims enacting their understanding of Islam’s holy book, Quran. Where Julia Gillard is right is that it is happening more broadly – similar examples can be found all across the Muslim world. Where I disagree with her is when she claims that:

anyone who is serious about wanting to promote economic growth and to tackle extremism should start by building classrooms and training teachers.

Of course the case of Nigeria shows very clearly that one must start by tackling extremism – otherwise schools become a soft target.

So, Julia Gillard’s speech can be summed up by the lyrics of the title song of this post “half of what I say is meaningless”.



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