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Peshawar Attack Survivors Learn Nanotechnology in US Visit



On December 16, 2014, Taliban militants attacked Pakistan’s Army Public School. They killed 132 children and 13 teachers. Many call the day Pakistan's 9/11.

Pakistan reacted strongly. Its army expanded military operations. The parliament ordered trials in military courts. The country renewed the use of the death penalty.

World leaders have called for governments to protect children and schools. Education experts say that children who survive attacks like the one in Peshawar need to return to normal routines in order to recover from the terror.

One U.S. group is helping survivors of the Peshawar Army School attack explore new educational possibilities.

Twelve male students and two of their teachers recently completed a two-week study tour in the United States. The Washington-based Meridian International Center invited them. The group took part in a nanotechnology research project at the State University of New York (SUNY) Polytechnic Institute in Albany. They also met with American students and officials.

One of the Pakistani students, Mohammad Ahmad Ali Asim, spoke to VOA's Urdu service. He said the students hope the study tour will help them in their further education. He said it will help them in knowing American history and culture. He added that the students are was thankful for the hospitality of the Meridian International Center and the U.S. government.

Their teacher, Tehmina Hasan, praised the study tour.

"Our students really want to work in these projects and they were noting the websites. And we have a two-weeks' program concerning the nanotechnology so they are going to make a project about it. And they are going to present it. I think it is very exciting and very thrilling for our students."

Stuart Holliday is the head of Meridian International Center and a former U.S. representative to the United Nations. He said one goal of the trip is for the students to make friends and spread the message of friendship.

"What we are doing is simply what we do with thousands of other young people from around the world, which is giving them an opportunity to really understand American society and culture. But also some of the skills that they're going to need to be successful back home in Pakistan."

Muhammad said it has been a good experience for him to let Americans know about Pakistan and to learn about American society.

"Religion is a personal choice, and humanity comes before religion, and that is what I saw in people here. They do not treat others based on their religion."

William Barth is one of the four American students traveling with the group. He attends Ridgefield High School in Ridgefield, Connecticut. He says his understanding of Pakistan has changed. Now he knows it is not just a place of war.

"This trip has given me a chance to see Pakistan in different way. Before this, I saw it through news media and mostly framed in the context of war on terror. I think you can find common ground with anyone if you try hard enough."

The boys took part in a nanotechnology program while at SUNY-Albany. The students formed four groups of one American and three Pakistani boys. Each group had to think of a nanotechnology invention and business plan. Then they presented their ideas to science and business leaders.

Stuart Holliday said the boys can gain much, although the visit is brief.

"Well, if you talk to people who have gone through these programs, they're very impactful even though they're short in duration. And the relationships last far beyond the two weeks."

The students lost many friends in the attack on their school. Nothing will bring them back. But the new friends they made in the U.S. may help the healing process.

Tabinda Naeem and Muhammad Atif reported this story for VOA News. Jill Robbins wrote it for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

penalty n. punishment for breaking a rule or law

routine – n. a regular way of doing things in a particular order

nanotechnologyn. the science of working with atoms and molecules to build devices (such as robots) that are extremely small

opportunity n. an amount of time or a situation in which something can be done

framev. to put (something) inside an open structure that holds it : to put (something) in a frame

context n. the situation in which something happens : the group of conditions that exist where and when something happens

impactfuladj. having a major impact or effect.

durationn. the length of time that something exists or lasts

Now it’s your turn. Are there any programs where you live to help children recover from a painful experience? If there are terror attacks on schools where you live, how does your government protect children? Write to us in the comments section.

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