Educating a nation

I was appalled to hear that Malala Yousafazai, a young teenager, was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in Pakistan because she advocated for girls’ education. The bullet pierced her left temple and lodged near her spine. She is still alive, and has been flown to Britain for treatment to repair what damage can be helped. She reportedly has not suffered significant brain damage and is improving. She has since been reunited with her family. Two other girls were wounded in the gunfire; one is relatively unharmed and the other is in critical condition.

In 2009, after the Taliban passed the edict that girls weren’t allowed to participate in schooling, Malala began blogging as a way to reach out across the globe. She is fighting for, risking her life for, something American students take for granted. Schooling is something that most teenagers view as something we are forced to do rather than a privilege. I took it for granted from an early age that I would learn to read, go to high school, and probably go on to college. At least I knew I had the option of going to high school, and going to college was a choice I had. I had never asked myself what would happen if I was told I couldn’t go to school. Now I realize education isn’t something to be taken for granted.

It’s nearly impossible to go a day without hearing “I hate school.” It drifts over the morning cacophony of slamming lockers; slithers through the scuffling feet in the lunch line; hopscotches through the ears of every high schooler until each and every one of us begins to believe it’s true. I know I’m guilty of saying it at least weekly, mostly on Monday mornings. But, if I think about it, I don’t hate school. Most high schoolers don’t really hate school.

What we hate is having to get up early and work hard, but if we don’t do it now, it will be lot harder for us in the future. A little hard work now will carry through the rest of our lives.

Cost of one calculus text book: $180.99. Education: Priceless. With an educated mind a person can obtain anything. Every additional year of schooling can lead to as much as a 10 percent increase in income. If every student in low income countries exited school with rudimentary reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty, equal to a 12 percent drop in global poverty. The lives of 1.8 million children in sub-Saharan Africa could be saved this year alone if their mothers had a secondary education. Even when agriculture is the largest means of income, having at least four years of primary schooling leads to a nearly 9 percent increase in productivity. Education strengthens not only one person, but the fabric of their family and their country. Malala represents every girl, every woman. To be discriminated against to the point of having education taken away, something Americans consider a right, is horrifying. As Gandhi pointed out, “If you educate a man, you educate an individual; but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” That’s what Malala is fighting for — her education, the education of women, the education of a nation.

This column is the opinion of Heather Morton, a junior Connections and Skyview High School

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