Monday, January 6, 2014

The Rebel

How many times have you thought: I hate school. I wish I didn't have to be here today. I'm bored. Why does any of this matter? And, what's for lunch?

Now try to imagine being in fear for your life because you go to school.

Malala Yousafzai was born July 12, 1997, and lived in the Swat Valley of Pakistan with her parents and two younger brothers. Her father was an English teacher at a local school.

                             The country of Pakistan; Swat Valley is in yellow.

Malala did the unthinkable: She went to school. She spoke about hiding her books under her bed in case the Taliban came to search her home.

Why was it unthinkable?

Because Malala is a girl.

The Taliban tries to enforce a strict law against females going to school, among other restrictions such as no music and no television. They say that girls need only read their holy book, the Qu'ran, to learn anything and everything they need to know, and should look to the males in their family for any guidance at any time.

More on the Taliban:

and on their view of women:

When they learned that girls were defying the rules, the Taliban set about destroying school buildings by blowing them up. As the girls' schools disappeared, some boys' schools also closed in solidarity. To continue to keep the Taliban unaware that there was still schooling going on, girls would say they were going to a sewing class or a religious class when it was actually 'regular' school. Students brought sewing projects in a bag, with their books hidden underneath. They would hear lectures from instructors during class time, and if there were any Taliban nearby, local children playing outside would alert the students.

  Compare this to a classroom in which you have been taught. Were there more supplies? Desks? Posters?

"I don't mind if I have to sit on the floor as long as I can attend school. All I want is education. And I'm afraid of no one." -Malala Yousafzai.

Why would anyone try to ban females from receiving an education? Because it keeps them under the power of the Taliban. If you know how to take care of yourself, have skills to get a job to support yourself, and are aware of the world in general, you take the power for yourself.

In other words, knowledge is power.

In 2008, the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) was writing about events in Pakistan, but wanted a more personal view. They contacted Malala's father and asked if he knew a student who might write for them. He recommended one of his older female students, who began to write a blog about her life, but her family became fearful of retribution, so she dropped out of the project. Thus, 11 year old Malala became its writer. It did not identify her by her true name, in an effort to keep her safe. It's interesting to note that her name, Malala, means 'grief-stricken.' Her alias for the blog was Gul Makai, which means 'Cornflower.' Read some excerpts here:

Malala also posted her thoughts on Facebook, exposing her to more danger.

On October 9, 2012, on the bus on her way home from school, the Taliban made the bus halt, got on, and shot Malala in the head, as well as two other children that were hit in the shoulders. The Taliban left her for dead.

                                       Candlelight vigil for Malala after the shooting

Malala had her initial surgery in Pakistan and then was flown to England for further treatment, where she recovered well. The Taliban has vowed that they still intend to kill her if they get the chance. She and her family have now settled in Birmingham, England.

"The terrorists showed what frightened them the most: A girl with a book."  -Ban Ki Moon, U.N. Secretary-General

After recovering from her injury, Malala continues to speak out against oppression and war in interviews as well as meeting with world leaders. She urges Western countries to send books, not guns, to Pakistan and other school-hungry countries.

To appreciate this young woman's maturity and grace, listen to her speech to the U.N. this past fall:
Imagine being so powerful---and so threatening to the Taliban---at the age of 16.

Think about how much you complain about school for a few minutes, and then think about the oppression that keeps 5 million children out of school in Pakistan. Imagine being disappointed when there's a semester break because you're not sure the school will reopen afterwards.

How much power do you already have? Would you be as brave as Malala in continuing to insist on the right to education for all? How can you make a difference? 

Starting now, keep Malala in mind as you go through your school day, and remember: there are people who would love the routine of going to classes every day with no fear and no restrictions. Value your education, and do your best.

Malala Yousafzai has been awarded the following national and international honors:
"I raise up my voice--not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard." -Malala Yousafzaia.  

Malala has written a book of her story titled "I Am Malala," which is available for sale at bookstores, or look for it in your local library.

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