132 children and nine adults, including teachers, were massacred at their school yesterday in Northern Pakistan. The attack was carried out by the Pakistani Taliban and has left the community and country in deep mourning. Many of the children were shot as they were sitting exams in the main hall, others were killed in their classrooms or as they ran away. It is almost impossible to imagine the horror which the children endured. One who survived after being shot in both legs said: "The man with big boots kept on looking for students and pumping bullets into their bodies. I lay as still as I could and closed my eyes, waiting to get shot again." 

The school was one of many army public schools across the country, which are attended not only by the children of the military but also by members of local communities. The Pakistani army is one of the most powerful institutions of the state and has a history of being a provider of public education.

As a result of these dreadful events, the Pakistani government is already carrying out what one military leader called 'massive air strikes' in the surrounding area. As the UK Guardian put it: The danger over the coming weeks and months is of spiralling violence in an already volatile region as the Pakistan military, which has a well-founded reputation for ruthlessness, seeks revenge for the dead children of military personnel. 

It was only last week that teachers in this region went on strike, because many of them had not been paid at all. One described how he  taught in a mosque because there were no school buildings and how the numbers were going down because parents were too frightened to send their children to school. He went on: 'I have not been paid in six months. But I still love teaching. I love spreading knowledge to my students.'

It is hard for those of us teaching in Europe or North America to imagine the conditions in which our colleagues in areas like this are having to work. They not only cope with conflict but with appalling conditions and poverty pay. Nonetheless they continue to do their best to educate children.

This latest appalling event in Peshawar only reinforces this view and the heroism of children and teachers who continue to learn and teach in these dangerous conditions. Our solidarity and deepest sympathy go to the families, children and teachers in Peshawar who are traumatised and grieving.