Girls’ Education: Malala

Malala Yousafzai was born in the Swat Valley, in Pakistan. Many children in Pakistan cannot go to school, especially if they are girls, but Malala’s father thought that education was very important and he ran a school.

When Malala was about 12 years old, the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley. They did not want girls to go to school and they closed many schools. Malala started writing a blog for the BBC but she did not use her real name. She wrote about life in her town and she said that she was afraid her school would be shut down.

The Taliban told Malala’s father that he had to close his school. Malala and her father continued to speak out for the right to education, even though it was very dangerous to do this. The Taliban told them to stop, otherwise they might kill them, but Malala and her father did not stop. 

In 2011, Malala received the National Youth Peace Prize in Pakistan. She was becoming famous and the Taliban decided to try to kill her, even though she was still a child. On 9 October 2012, Malala and her friends were on the school bus on their way home from school.

A gunman came on to the bus and asked which girl was Malala. Then he shot her in the head. Two of her friends were also injured. Malala survived but she was very badly hurt. She went to hospital in Pakistan and then she was flown to a hospital in the UK. She had to stay in hospital for over two months. 

People all around the world were very shocked that the Taliban tried to kill a 15 year old girl, just because she spoke out for education. Many people supported Malala and thought she was very brave and she became a symbol of children’s right to education.

After she left hospital Malala started going to school in the UK, but she was also even more determined to fight for children’s rights to go to school. She was now famous and on her 16th birthday she made a speech to the United Nations Youth Assembly. 

In December 2014, Malala was the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her work ‘for the right of all children to education’. She used her prize money to build a secondary school for girls in Pakistan and continued campaigning for education for all children.

She celebrated her 18th birthday by opening a school for Syrian girls in a refugee camp in Lebanon. Malala then went on to study for a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford, UK. 

At the age of 11, Malala began anonymously blogging for BBC Urdu. She gave vivid accounts of what it was like attending school as a girl in the Swat district of Pakistan. Her first post read, in part:

On my way from school to home I heard a man saying ‘I will kill you.’ I hastened my pace and after a while I looked back if the man was still coming behind me. But to my utter relief he was talking on his mobile and must have been threatening someone else over the phone.

Task: Explain why someone may consider Malala inspirational.

You can watch the video of Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize speech below.

Task: Explain what you think makes a good leader.

She feels the need to help her country, and to do that, she plans to become prime minister. “There are so many crises and no real leaders,” says Malala.  “Through politics I can save my whole country. I can spend much of the budget on education and I can also concentrate on foreign affairs.”

Task: Do you feel that Malala would be a good leader? Explain your view.

The extremists were, and they are, afraid of books and pens,” she said. “The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women.” Urging worldwide action against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, she said: “Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons.

Task: What do you think that Malala meant by this?

Malala has committed herself to raising aspirations and opportunities for girls. Read the information here about the Malala Fund which was set up to transform female experience of education and beyond.

Task: Explain the barriers to girls’ education that the Malala Fund is trying to address.

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