Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education
No modern day blog about global education rights is complete without at least mentioning its greatest ambassador and icon: Malala Yousafzai. I recently saw the documentary about her life and was once again won over by her. Not only did I learn about her life and the house where she was born. I saw the immensely strong bond she has with her father and laughed at the endearing teasing of her brothers. I was also reminded of several very relevant things.
First of all: knowledge is power. And not only that; depriving someone the access to knowledge is an act of terror and suppression.
Malala’s love for her family is evident and pure but her relationship with her mother is inevitably different. Her mother, Tor Pekai, despite being married to an open minded and respectful Pakistani man, never learned to read and write (all though she is learning now!) Being illiterate made her more fearful of the world and more compliant, as her truth was based on the conservative words of local clergymen and radio broadcasters.
My second realization was that education and indoctrination lie dangerously close to one another. I see how literacy brings a sense of freedom with it and opens a great range of possibilities to a person that were previously impossible to achieve. I also see that being able to access information through newspapers, blogs and subtitled TV can change one’s world.
Education however does not only consist of learning to read and write. It consists of geography and history as well and it is nearly impossible to teach these subjects objectively. In many cases learning about religion and culture is also part of the curriculum. I remember loving social studies but I also see now how much I was taught to see the world from a Western point of view; privileged and slightly euro-centric.
History especially is extremely subjective, and at this very moment I feel ambivalent about the necessity to teach a child what has already happened. We always say you must know your past to know where you’re heading and I have always been convinced it is the only way to avoid making the same mistakes in the future that we did in the past.
It doesn’t seem to be working though, which makes me think perhaps it would be better to have no knowledge of the past at all, to eliminate all feelings of revenge and retaliation. No more history classes, no more social studies and no more religious education. Just start with a clean slate and let a child’s uninfluenced conscience decide what’s right and wrong. Controversial? Revolutionary? Unrealistic? Never gonna happen? Probably yes to all of those, but luckily I am free to dream…
…which reminds me of the most inspiring quotes I ever heard and came from the mouth of Ziauddin Yousasfzai during a TED talk in 2014. When Malala’s father was asked what he had done to make his daughter so strong and brave, he answered:
Don’t ask me what I did. Ask me what I did not do. I did not clip her wings, and that’s all.