Pakistani teen Malala Yousafzai’s advice for her peers: Be grateful for your education

Published: July 15, 2014
Pakistan-teen-shot-Taliban

Malala Yousafzai shares stories with schoolgirls from Kenya’s Maasai Mara region. Handout photo courtesy of Free the Children.

MARC And CRAIG KIELBURGER
POSTMEDIA NEWS

Malala Yousafzai thinks the world is small — “a family,” she told us, “in one house.”

When she met with the parents of some of the 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram on her trip to Nigeria this past weekend, she called the girls her “sisters,” promising to speak out until their release.

Before her trip to Nigeria, she took her first trip to Africa with us two months ago. In Kenya’s Maasai Mara to help build a girls’ school, she was welcomed like a sibling, laughing and quietly conspiring with the local girls while she hauled cement at Oleleshwa, a Free The Children school.

Teaching a geography class, Malala held her composure at the chalk board until she erupted in giggles with the other students, a perfect enactment of her twin roles for them — mentor and peer. She is after all just 17, having celebrated her birthday and Malala Day — a UN-designated day of awareness for universal education — on July 12 while in Nigeria.

The latest campaign from her Malala Fund is cultivating the hashtag #strongerthan, with supporters posting photos and messages to prove they are stronger than the enemies of education.

The world knows her as the girl who was shot by the Taliban. In her home country, Malala was well-known as an activist by the time she was 11. From her bedroom in her home in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, she listened to the bombs outside and blogged anonymously for the BBC. The day the Taliban came for her, she was 15, shot in the head with a Colt .45 pistol.

The world, and especially its youth, rallied around her. We had a chance to speak to Malala about the advice she would give to children in the West who want to live her message for universal rights to education.

Remember the world is small

Malala: This world is like a family, and in one house if you don’t think about your brother and your sister, you don’t have a bright future. That is my message to the whole world — that we should think about those children who are suffering from child labour, from terrorism, from child trafficking.

We need to work together for education. I would request that the young generation especially speak out. When I was in Swat (Valley), I spoke only a few words but it had a great impact.

Be grateful for your education

Malala: Before (the shooting), people knew that children are deprived of education. But some children were thinking that going to school is such a burden: ‘Oh, I have to do a lot of homework, and this experiment, and this research and I’m tired.’ In other parts of the world, there were so many children who wanted to go to school, who wanted to struggle for it and who said, ‘I want to learn, I want to sit in a classroom.’

I’m really happy that people are supporting me in this cause. They do not support me, but rather they support those children for whom we are speaking.

Recognize life lessons in the classroom

Malala: I would give some small advice. Even though it would look hard to you: Why am I doing a lot of homework? Why do I go to school every day and wake up early in the morning? — that’s hard for me as well to wake up early in the morning. But going to school means building up the future. When you go to school, you build up your future; you build up the future of your country.

(School) can furnish and can polish your talent. It can polish your skills, so tomorrow you can get a better job, you can live a better life. If you are an artist, in school you will learn more about your art.

You also learn other basic things. You learn in a friendly environment about how we would live with each other. We sit on the same bench — it shows equality; it shows that all are equal.

Brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger founded a platform for social change that includes the international charity, Free The Children, the social enterprise, Me to We, and the youth empowerment movement, We Day.

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