Monday, October 15, 2012

The Power of We… for education

It's Blog Action Day, the annual event when bloggers worldwide unite to write about one important global topic on the same day.
The theme for 2012 is, “The Power of We.”
Topics since the Day’s foundation in 2007 covered the environment, poverty, climate change, water and food. In 2010 and 2011, Mich Café participated in the latter two  (see links below).
Blog Action Day chose The Power of We because of the popularity of such subjects as community, equality, transparency, anti-corruption and freedom in a theme poll they ran via Facebook and Twitter. It also reflects the ever-growing movements of people working together for positive social change in the world.
The Power of We, or the lack thereof in many cases, keyed me up. I dragged my feet over the past few weeks in picking the angle to cover. But because I can only relate to equality and freedom of thought and expression through the power of education, that had to be my focus.
This choice was confirmed by two events over the past week: the dramatic shooting on October 9 of 14-year-old Pakistani student Malala Yousafzai for going to school and advocating for girls’ education; and the first International Day of the Girl Child on October 11.
Both events, through their reach and ripple, confirm that empowering girls means empowering societies as a whole. I would add that through proper education, boys would grow up to be equal partners on that journey.
Under Article 1 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

Furthermore, Article 26 proclaims:
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
Education is the only way we might see a fall in the number of child brides, the eventual abolition of Female Genital Mutilation, gender equality in the workplace and at home and hopefully racial and religious tolerance.
Malala Yousafzai
On October 9, a Taliban gunman shot Malala Yousafzai in the head and neck while she was returning home on a school bus. She remains unconscious and in critical condition.
I first heard about the attempted assassination, and indeed about Malala, from our Pakistani driver at work, who comes from that region. He rushed in to ask me to check on the Internet about the teenager’s condition. All of the community in Dubai was outraged and saddened by the attempt on the young girl’s life. And although a conservative, the Pakistani driver was full of admiration for what Malala stands for and what she is trying to achieve.
The Taliban gunman shot Malala as she heading home on the school bus after taking an exam in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. The masked gunman shouted, "Which one of you is Malala? Speak up, otherwise I will shoot you all." On her being identified, the gunman shot her twice, once in the head and once in the neck. Two other girls, Kainat Riaz and Shazia Ramzan, were also wounded. They are both stable and were able to provide details of the outrage.
Malala being airlifted to a military hospital after the shooting
Malala was airlifted to a military hospital in Peshawar where she was operated on after swelling developed in the left portion of her brain damaged by the bullet. After a three-hour operation, doctors successfully removed the bullet that had lodged in her shoulder near her spinal cord.

Today, Monday, Malala was airlifted with the help of the UAE to the UK, for further treatment.
Ehsanullah Ehsan, chief spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the teenager "is the symbol of the infidels and obscenity," adding that if she survived, they would target her again.
Malala Yousafzai is a pupil from the town of Mingora in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. She is known for her education and women’s rights activism in the Valley, where the Taliban have banned girls from attending school.
Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, a poet, school owner and an educational activist himself, encouraged Malala in her education and pursuits. He runs a chain of schools known as the Khushal Public School, also named after a famous Pashtun poet, Khushal Khan Khattak.
In January 2009, she posted her first anonymous entry to the BBC Urdu blog that would later make her famous. She used the pseudonym "Gul Makai" -- meaning "corn flower" in Urdu -- so as not to be targeted by the Taliban.
The idea for the blog came from her father. She wrote about her life under the Taliban regime, their attempts to take control of the valley and her views on promoting education for girls. Later that year, the Pakistani military intervened, culminating in the expulsion of the Taliban from the Swat Valley.
In 2009, Malala began to appear on television and publicly encourage female education. After her BBC blogging identity was revealed, she was recognized by several organizations for her courage.
In December 2011, she was awarded Pakistan's National Youth Peace Prize. This January, the Government Girls Secondary School on Mission Road in Swat was renamed Malala Yousafzai Government Girls Secondary School in her honor.
Responding to concerns about his and his family’s safety, Malala's father, Ziauddin, said, "We wouldn't leave our country if my daughter survives or not. We have an ideology that advocates peace. The Taliban cannot stop all independent voices through the force of bullets."
Girl Child
As Malala Yousafzai fights for her life because of her strong belief in education, the world honored the “girl child” through an international day to raise awareness about enduring discrimination and to mobilize stronger action for human rights.
Education, particularly that of girls and women, aids progress and promotes development.
Worldwide, more people than ever before are benefiting from an education, according to UNESCO. It says over 1.5 billion children and youths are enrolled in kindergartens, primary and secondary schools and universities. From 1999 to 2008, an additional 52 million children enrolled in primary school. The number of children out of school was more than halved in South and West Asia. Enrolment ratios rose by almost one-third in sub-Saharan Africa.
Access to education is steadily expanding. Enrolment in higher education has risen sharply across developing countries, and innovative literacy and adult education programs are transforming the lives of the disadvantaged.
But, UNESCO notes, a number of obstacles, including poverty, still keep 67 million children of primary-school age out of school, 53 percent of whom are girls and almost 43 percent of whom are in sub-Saharan Africa.
Enrolment rates are slowing and being eroded by dropout, particularly in countries affected by armed conflict where over 40 percent of out-of-school children live.
Gender disparities continue to hamper progress in education. Around 17 percent of the world’s adults -- 793 million people, of whom two-thirds are women -- still lack basic literacy skills.
Millions struggle to learn in overcrowded classrooms, without textbooks or qualified teachers. An additional two million teachers will need to be recruited by 2015 to achieve universal primary education, more than half of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
Across the world, girls carry the heaviest burden of poverty, marginalization and violence. “Their rights are violated through early marriages, active discrimination and lack of opportunity. For far too many, being born a girl remains a lifelong sentence to inequality and injustice. This violates basic rights and holds back communities and societies from sustainable development.”
In her message on the occasion of International Day of the Girl Child, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said, “Education is the most powerful way to break this vicious circle. Education gives girls tools to shape the world according to their aspirations. It can delay early marriages and help with family planning. It provides strong medicine against disease and ill health. There is simply no better investment a society can make than in the rights of girls. The impact ripples far beyond individuals to take in the health and wellbeing of societies well into the future.”
UNESCO estimates that 32 million girls who should be are not attending primary school today. This must change. It is committed to ensuring every girl has access to quality education. “We must get girls into school and make sure they stay the course, from primary through secondary and onto higher education.”
Bokova adds: “The rights of girls are a key issue for social justice. Governments everywhere must do far more to protect them, to bolster girls’ capacities and to create conditions for the fulfillment of their aspirations. This requires stronger legalization and policies of protection and inclusion. It calls for targeted work to break stereotypes and promote new models.”
“The Power of We” is thus dedicated to promoting education.
“The Power of We” is dedicated to building for the future.
“The Power of We” is dedicated to Malala Yousafzai with my prayers for her recovery, so that she might continue her courageous battle for education and carry on being an example to her peers.
“The Power of We” is dedicated to the Girl Child to fulfill her potential, enrich her society and the economic growth of her nation.
“The Power of We” is also dedicated to the boys who will grow up to be men and walk hand in hand with their women partners.

Related posts:
Food for thought -- October 16, 2011
A bucket of water -- October 15, 2010