Universal Education

Malala Yousafzai, a fourteen-year-old girl from Pakistan, was shot in the head and neck while on a school bus by the Taliban “for being a symbol of infidels and obscenity” and promoting “false propaganda.”

So what slander was she endorsing? Basic education for women. Yousafzai has been a prominent advocate of women’s rights since the age of eleven, after the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in northern Pakistan in the beginning of 2009. She was the first recipient of Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize. She also wrote a blog for BBC Urdu under a pseudonym that logged daily life under the Taliban presence.

To make a long story short, the Taliban was intimidated by a teenager who was endorsing what should be an inalienable right, so they attempted to kill her. Fortunately, this attempt was not successful, as Malala is currently undergoing medical treatment after surgeons were able to successfully remove the bullets at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. International media outlets ate up this story like nobody’s business. Celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Madonna brought further attention to the incident, making campaigns to help fund efforts for women’s education in Afghanistan and Pakistan. International officials reacted with gusto, making promises to put the Taliban to justice for their heinous crime.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched a petition for the United Nations under Yousafzai’s name that would call on international organizations to ensure that the millions of uneducated children in the world are being schooled by 2015.

What Malala and many others have been fighting for in Pakistan and around the world is great. She is the voice of all women who have been or currently are being denied basic methods of self-expression.

But had people taken action on this issue twenty years prior, the incident could have been avoided completely. It is unfortunate that it takes events like this to spark interest in such problems.Those who have had the privilege of living in a country like the United States where, if one chooses, one can have their children receive a grade school level education for free.

We take for granted those days of school where we would rather be anywhere but in a classroom, while there are people who would have traded anything they had for that one day where you just weren’t in the mood to be in school. Although we are aware that millions of children are denied an education, we stand idle and uninterested, only motivated to take action when violence occurs.

What I’d like to know is why it took Malala being shot to have the United Nations set a goal for universal education, and why it wasn’t a priority before this occurrence. People, save a few individuals, are apathetic to the problems that plague the world that we live in, and despite the many outlets of information on how to prevent them available, they prefer to isolate themselves from these issues, until a shooting or a coup.

We see something similar on campus with the upcoming elections. There are students actively working to prevent a piece of legislation to pass that would increase the price of our education, and we also see students who fail to see how big of a threat it is to some of their peer’s chances of attaining a degree.

Sadly, people will only take action until something happens that creates an outrage among the public, much like the pepper-spraying incident at UC Davis last fall.

Are we going to wait until a student protesting gets critically injured before taking active interest in higher tuition?

I certainly hope not.

Nashra Anwer is a first-year literary journalism major and can be contacted at nanwer@uci.edu.