Beenish Ahmed

Beenish Ahmed is a freelance journalist based in Pakistan. She's reporting on education there with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crises Reporting.

Recent Articles

Pakistan's Industry of Violence

AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad
AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad I was at an uncle’s house in Peshawar a couple of months ago when the windows began to rattle. One of my youngest cousins walked towards them, peering out nervously. “It’s an earthquake,” she said almost hopefully. I looked at her father who shook his head slowly, but only when his daughter had turned back to the window. It was as if he wanted her to believe that the quivering earth was the result of a mere natural disaster. And then the windows began to clatter again. The 14-year-old slunk onto the couch beside her father. Her sisters and mother filed in around the TV, scarves draped over their heads, lips moving in prayer. It didn’t take long for live coverage to begin. The site of the attack was the city airport, just a couple miles from where we were. Even more disconcerting, the rockets began to fire where, just a few minutes prior, my aunt had driven on her way home. Once we’d been watching long enough that the news...

Rebuilding Schools—and Happiness—in Pakistan

Education reformers come to the former Taliban-occupied Swat Valley.

AP Photo/John McConnico
AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini When the Taliban ruled in the Swat Valley, from 2007 to 2009, it set up in enclaves in the mountainous terrain. In better times, this area was a vacation destination that drew many to its hilly hamlets. Visitors often left with apples from the orchards or jars of locally cultivated honey. People here were known for their folk music and dance, but those traditions quickly faded into the background. Taliban fighters enforced their own brand of draconian Islamic law, requiring men to grow beards and forbidding women from going to the market. Pakistanis watched as the region's famous “Green Square” turned into “Bloody Square” when the Taliban meted out punishment to those who dared cross its authority. More than two million fled the conflict, and many have since settled elsewhere, not daring to return. The region shuddered in thunderous bomb blasts. Some of those blasts were aimed at schools, and the Taliban destroyed 200 of them...

Muslim and American

Living under the shadow of 9/11

One morning, my uncle arrived at his family medical practice in Toledo, Ohio, to find threats on his answering machine. A muffled voice greeted him with a string of expletives before warning that there would be consequences if he didn't "get the hell out of here." In the 30 years since Uncle Doctor, as I called him, had emigrated from Pakistan to the United States, he had never been singled out for his nationality or religion. It was September 12, 2001, and the dust still hung heavy in Lower Manhattan. A similar message was waiting for him at home. "The scariest thing about it," my Aunt Kathy says, "was that whoever left those messages knew us. They knew our names. They knew the clinic number and our home number, even though it was unlisted." Today, my aunt and uncle struggle with the details ("It was ten years ago!" my aunt says), but at the time, they felt it was necessary to report the threats to the FBI. A middle-aged agent arrived on their doorstep clad in jeans and a khaki...

Detroit's School for Young Mothers to be Closed

Catherine Ferguson Academy, a Detroit public school that has educated young and expectant mothers since 1988 and won numerous accolades and honors along the way, will not reopen this fall. With a seemingly insurmountable district-wide debt of $327 million, state-appointed financial managers proposed desperate measures to return the city’s public school system to sound financial footing. In February, the school system’s emergency manager announced that half of all the public schools would be closed, and in April, all 5,446 DPS teachers received pink slips to signal that their contracts could be terminated prior to the 2011-2012 school year. While the proposed closures and layoffs have since been scaled back, the future remains bleak. Eight of 18 schools in Detroit that were slated for closure face the same fate as Catherine Ferguson. A bid to run a charter school at the site was not enough to maintain the Academy and the other eight schools – even though charters, as...

Fighting School Closures in Detroit

Young mothers in Detroit fight to keep their unique school open.

From left, Bryanna Douglas, Tiffini Baldwin, Ashley Rodgers, and Adrinne Minter look over a vegetable garden they tend at the Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, in July 2010. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
The award-winning Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, which educates young and expectant mothers as well as their children, boasts a 100 percent college acceptance rate in a district where only two out of three students can expect to graduate at all. Not only does it offer free child-care services but the school, in the middle of the city, is even equipped with a full-scale farm. The one-of-a-kind institution was the subject of an award-winning documentary , which debuted last year. It has also been lauded as a success story by Oprah and Rachel Maddow. But these accolades, honors, and successes aren't enough to keep the school off a closure list released by Robert Bobb, the emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools. And with the powers granted to him to revive the ailing school district, he might just have his way. By the end of June, eight public schools in Detroit will close. Another 18 will face hearings before Bobb. If they can make a case for their programs, they will remain...