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Take education seriously

By CAROL MATROO Thursday, July 31 2014

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CLASS ACT: Pleasantville Secondary School student Aliyah Lewis shows off her dance skill as she performed yesterday at the National Academy for the Pe...
CLASS ACT: Pleasantville Secondary School student Aliyah Lewis shows off her dance skill as she performed yesterday at the National Academy for the Pe...

“One book; one pen; one child; one teacher; can change the world.” These words will go down in the history books with the young woman who uttered them, but they may go hand in hand with her famous words before she was shot in the forehead — “I am Malala.”

Malala Yousafzai bravely looked into the eyes of her would-be killers, making a choice to stand up for the right of education for girls in Pakistan, a right that was taken away by the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistan.

“My family was not rich financially, but rich morally. My mother and father respected education when few girls had the opportunity to go to school. I was treated well with the same rights as my brothers,” she said during her feature address at the National Academy for Performing Arts (NAPA), Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

Malala arrived in Trinidad on Sunday afternoon at the invitation of Tertiary Education and Skills Minister, Fazal Karim, who made the request a year ago for her to visit this country. It was the Taliban who took issue with her call for free education for girls, almost taking the life of a then 15-year-old education activist.

She was on a bus on her way home on October 9, 2012, after writing her exams, when two young men stopped the bus. One boarded the vehicle and instantly asked, “Who is Malala?” Her friends’ glances gave her away and the young man fired three shots.

One struck Malala on her forehead, going under the skin on her face and lodging in her shoulder. The other two bullets hit two friends who were sitting next to her.

She survived. Malala said she does not want revenge, she wants to see free education for all in her homeland. It was her fight and dream since the age of 11. Her other great dream is to return to her home in Swat Valley, a place she has not been able to return to since the attack.

Education has been a foundation for Malala, one that she is not willing to give up, one that she hopes other children of the world can have without discrimination. “My home (Swat Valley) was a place of beauty, but everything completely changed with a change called the Taliban, who said a girl’s education was not allowed, which is totally wrong because in Islam it says it is the duty of every Muslim whether man or woman to get an education,” she said, which earned her loud applause from the audience, consisting mostly of young, high school students and young children accompanied by their parents and guardians.

She was accompanied on this trip by her father, Ziauddin, her mother, Toorpekai, and two younger brothers. “The Taliban is spreading fear and terror in the name of Islam, but Islam gives a message about peace and harmony and tolerance. I had two options, one was to speak and then be killed by the Taliban, the other was just be silent and wait to be killed,” Malala said.

During her stay in TT, Malala said she had one of the greatest experiences of her life, meeting cricket great Brian Lara. “Yesterday, (Tuesday) I met a cricketer who I had never met before. I met Brian Lara. He is an amazing cricketer and I love cricket and I learned some good things even though he was giving advice to my brothers,” she said, earning chuckles from the audience.

Malala said while she may not be good at cricket, Lara told her if she wanted to be a great cricketer, she had to prepare herself for the most difficult times in her life.

“We must overcome our fears. I had fear in my life, but my courage was so strong it defeated my fear, so our courage should be stronger than our fears. We all have our weaknesses. I am not happy with my height. I am five feet tall, is that tall?” she asked much to the amusement of the audience.

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