Children in T&T should be thankful for the educational opportunities and must take full advantage of them, says world-renowned education activist Malala Yousafzai. Addressing an audience of schoolchildren at the National Academy for the Performing Arts, Port-of-Spain, yesterday, the 17-year-old, ranked in 2013 as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine, said: “In this country, you get quality education that is free from the primary level up to the tertiary level and even up to the post-graduate level they also help you.
“You are really lucky that you have free education and I tell you, this is a great opportunity for you to focus more on your education and to continue it.”
The Pakistan-born teenager told students— who came from all levels: Primary, secondary, and tertiary — about other children throughout the world who would have given anything to have similar opportunities.
She added: “Children here, I am very happy that you give importance to your schools and you are getting quality education but it is important that you know about other countries as well. “There are 10.5 million children in Nigeria who are out of school. There are five to seven million children in Pakistan who are out of school. That’s about five or six times your whole population. “Because of child labour and child-trafficking in India and Pakistan and many other countries, children are facing many, many problems. “There are more than 57 million children who are out of school and who really need support. So what you have got, you should be thankful for it and you should focus on it,” Malala said.
Highlighting one of her projects in Jordan for Syrian children who are refugees from the civil war, she said: “They are amazing, amazing children who have so many dreams — some of them want to become doctors, engineers, teachers, journalists — but they have so many difficulties in their lives. “They don’t get schooled. They don’t get the right books. They don’t have the well-qualified teachers. They don’t have schools and shelters. There are so many difficulties that they are suffering through.” She said her organisation, the Malala Fund, was established to speak up for those underprivileged children and to provide opportunities for them. Saying she was just an ordinary girl, Malala said everybody had something special to offer to the world and school was the place to find it. “We are all special. I may not be good at singing but I will be good at painting. I may not be good as a doctor but I will be good as an engineer. When we go to school, we discover the skills and talents we have,” she said.
A student of Edgbaston High School for Girls in Birmingham, UK, Malala said she had already discovered her calling, politics. “I’m really interested in politics. I know some say it’s a kind of bad thing but politics is the way through which you can help your country. “When you become prime minister you can bring great changes in your law and constitution so I am hopeful that someone will vote for me,” she said with her typical light sense of humour.
Who is Malala?
“Who is Malala?” That was the question asked by a Taliban member before he shot Malala Yousafzai on a school bus on October 9, 2012. “I was a girl born in a family that was not very rich, economically, but was very rich morally and ethically. “I was born in this very nice family where my mother and father respected education and they believed that a girl should be allowed to go to school,” Malala said to an audience of schoolchildren at the National Academy for the Performing Arts, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.
In 2009, she began writing a blog for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), under the pseudonym Gul Makai, to highlight the difficulties girls faced in getting an education in Pakistan.
Together with 20 of her friends, she formed the Malala Education Foundation which sought to promote education for girls in Pakistan. Her recognition made her a target for the Taliban, leading to that fateful moment in 2012. Dressed in a pink headscarf and traditional Pakistani clothes, Malala condemned the Taliban for their wrong interpretation of Islam.
She said: “In Islam it is said that it is the duty of every Muslim, man or woman, to get knowledge and to get educated. “The word Islam means peace. It gives the message of harmony, patience and tolerance but I think they (Taliban) were not reading the Qur’an or were not understanding the real meaning of the Qur’an. “In Islam, women are respected as equally as men and women have equal rights.” Malala, who was nominated twice for a Nobel Peace Prize, addressed the United Nations on July 12, 2013, her 16th birthday, when she said: “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”
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