Willing to Die for an Education
Attacked for promoting secularism. At age 14, sitting on a school bus, a gun aimed at her head, a bullet just grazing her brain, all because she wanted an education. Malala Yousafzai, a student, one of the youngest education activists, shot by the Taliban for promoting secularism.
At age 11, Malala started writing a blog for the BBC Urdu. Her blog entries reflected her life - being with her friends, her family, her school and her studies. While her writings were non-political, they clearly exhibited a desire for the right of females to have an education.
What can students all over the world learn from Malala? Here is a young girl basically willing to die for an education. She has already accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. Accomplishments include:
- Participated in the Institute for War and Peace Reporting's Open Minds project. This project was designed to bring journalism training and discussions of current affairs to 42 schools in Pakistan.
- Nominated by Desmond Tutu, she was awarded the International Children's Peace Prize.
- Awarded Pakistan's first National Youth Peace Prize.
- Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize.
I suspect schoolchildren here in the United States would have a hard time understanding what it is like to have death threats slipped under their front door or published in a newspaper for speaking out about education. Or even to imagine what it would be like to have a fundamentalist militant movement plotting to kill you.
"I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right." —Malala Yousafzai envisioning a confrontation with the Taliban
Sure, gun violence in our school system is a problem, but the threat is not coming from an outside organized group determined to keep girls from pursuing education. Some kids don't even want to go to school - truancy rates and high school graduation rates are problematic for many school districts and neighborhood communities.
The bullet that hit Malala went through her head, neck, and ended in her shoulder. It's going to be a lengthy recuperating process, but doctors think a good recovery is possible. Let's hope so. And let's hope Malala's own success has inspired other young people, both boys and girls, to get involved in education.
Malala Yousafzai is from the town of Mingora in the Swat District of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Kids, start your homework here, learn more about her home and the struggles she has and will have to overcome. Think about the actions you could take to communicate education on her behalf and why education is so important. If things aren't working in your school, what sort of plans could you make for education reform?