I never considered whether I would go to school or not, it simply wasn’t a choice. While other students faked sick, or left school early to finish a paper, I never had that option, my parents made sure I was in school 100% of the time. It was just part of the routine, and often felt like a chore. Some days it didn’t feel fair that I had to be there, forced to try and absorb information that didn’t always feel relevant to me. Forced to follow strict bathroom policies, and consume lukewarm cafeteria pizza. Even after high school the next logical step was college, not a choice but an obligation.
It’s easy to complain about the overwhelming amounts of school work that never cease. It’s easy to make excuses and look for a way out of going to that 8 am class. But what if class wasn’t seen as an obligation but an opportunity? What if you didn’t have the convenience to read deeply, discuss freely, and write intellectually? What if as a female you were banned from obtaining an education? What if you had an opportunity to write and learn in spite of the law; to express what it was like as an oppressed female, seeking education. Knowing you had a story to tell, awareness to enforce, but if you were caught you would be killed. What would you do?
In 2009 at just 11, Malala, partnered with the BBC and wrote under a pseudonym, about her experiences living under Taliban rule. It started as she was banned from acting as a part of the school thus stripping her of her privilege to wear a school uniform, to being banned from attending school at all as many were closed down and destroyed. But she continued to write, continued to show courage and share her stories. She continued to live with hope, learn with desire, and lead with strength.
Due to a growing popularity, she was approached by the New York Times to film a documentary, to better tell her story. At 12 years old she became a known activist for female education. She was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize, and soon after awarded Pakistan’s first National Children’s Peace Prize.Yet despite her success, the looming fear of being found by the Taliban continued:
“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.”
Last month her nightmares came true, the Taliban attacked a van carrying her and friends home from school. Shooting several, Malala was left with life threatening wounds being struck in the neck and head. But she lives; walking, reading, singing, laughing, she lives. In a time of desperation it appears Malala received a miracle.
I can’t help but feel ashamed. Ashamed for taking the easy way out at times, for not adding value and appreciation to my education each and everyday. For not taking advantage of every opportunity given. I’ve taken freedom for granted. Education for granted. Malala stood up for a right she deserves. She encourages others to stand up for that same right. And she encourages me to optimize today, this project, this class, this degree.
I write because I can, she wrote because she had to.
“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.”
– Anthony J. D’Angelo.