Imagine if your education and everything you’ve learned was banned. Not only would you be prohibited from going to school, you wouldn’t be allowed to read, calculate or use any of the skills learned in school. How difficult would it be to function in today’s highly technical world?
Such a scenario may sound like a fiction novel comparable to Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” but it’s a sad reality for women in the Swat Valley region of Pakistan, where the Taliban banned girls from attending school. The Taliban believes in an ultra-fundamentalist interpretation of the Quran, which often opposes women’s education. Despite the suppressive Taliban regime, 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai courageously spoke out against the regime’s sexist education policy. She began writing a blog advocating women’s education in her region for BBC in 2009. Later she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize and won the Pakistani National Peace Prize for her advocacy. Seeing Malala as a threat to their agenda, Taliban militants shot her in the head on Oct. 9. Despite her wounds, the bullet was successfully removed. We can learn a lot from Malala. If a single teenage girl can bravely stand against one of the world’s most terrifying terrorist organizations and demand her right to education, we should learn to value our education. Too often we take education for granted because unless you attend private school, it’s free at least until college. We don’t realize how fortunate we are to have access to education.
There are many places in the world including Pakistan where education isn’t open to everyone. A 2010 report by the Global Campaign for Education found 69 million children worldwide are not enrolled in school. Most of these children live in sub-Saharan African countries, which don’t properly fund their education systems. Others live in countries such as Pakistan or Afghanistan, where education is or has been restricted to certain groups of people. Furthermore, children who do attend school in these regions receive low-quality education. A study found only 30 percent of teachers in sub- Saharan Africa have more than a secondary (meaning middle school) education.
Poverty is one consequence many of these countries face because of poor education. According to the CIA World Factbook, seven out of the 10 least educated countries also have poverty rates exceeding 50 percent. Three of these countries, Chad, Haiti and Liberia, have poverty rates at an astounding 80 percent. Other consequences include high crime rates, civil wars and high population growth.
I tutor at Monroe Clark Middle School in City Heights. One class I tutor discussed a scenario where education and the skills it provides were banned, later comparing it to Malala’s situation. I heard one group of students talk about being able to play video games all day. It’s an answer I would expect from seventh-grade students. Another student gave a more insightful answer, telling her group no one would know how to use a remote or change TV channels. I thought this answer was a great example of what the world could be like without education: boring, dull and without anyone capable of performing specific tasks.
The most obvious reason to value education is its economic advantages. According to data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as many as 14.1 percent of adults 25 and older who did not earn their high school diploma are unemployed in the U.S., compared to 2.4 percent of adults with a professional degree. The same data shows adults with a professional degree make an average of $1,665 weekly, in comparison to high school dropouts earning $451 a week. It’s simply more difficult, if not impossible, to get a higher paying job without an education.
However, we shouldn’t value education just for the economic benefits. Education makes us better and more well- rounded. It helps us to complete everyday tasks as simple as changing TV channels. It gives us irreplaceable knowledge and skills.
One such skill is critical thinking. Critical thinking helps us analyze and interpret data for a better understanding. It helps us think and make decisions for ourselves instead of just relying on other people say. As an aspiring teacher, these are skills I hope to pass along to students someday.
Next time you think about how difficult school is and how costly tuition is becoming, think about Malala’s fight for her right to education. Think about the valuable skills you can learn from education. Education is a human right worth more than any price tag.