Freshman, Biochemistry Major
For years, it has been debated in the public and private spheres, and countries allocate billions to fund it. It consumes the daily lives of millions, many of whom regard it as a duty, a job, a chore. Yet still, because of her passion, it caught the attention of the world. The idea: education.
Malala Yousafzai, now 17 years old, is known for her outspoken voice on the topic of education. Born in Pakistan, her family instilled in her the importance of learning, and from a young age, she attended school. The Taliban presence in Pakistan threatened female education there. Even so, her resilience did not waver and, encouraged by her father, in 2009, she began writing a blog about the struggles she and other Pakistani girls face in gaining an education. As time went on, she became well-known and gained attention for her advocacy. The Taliban, believing that Malala’s stance violated their principles, decided to kill Malala, and in October 2012, a member of the Taliban stopped the school bus that Malala was riding and shot her in the head. She was taken to the United Kingdom, where she received treatment and eventually recovered. Now, in addition to attending a private high school in Birmingham, England, she continues promoting education for all. For her efforts, she along with Kailash Satyarthi of India, received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Any Nobel Peace Prize winner—particularly the youngest winner in history—captures the world’s attention. They are lauded for their efforts and praised for their achievements. Their work provides a brief departure from the onslaught of “bad news” in the world with an interruption of brief hope.
There is more to be learned from Malala’s work though. Yes, it shows that school truly is a privilege. Yes, it shows even someone young can make a tremendous difference. More than that, it clearly manifests the power of taking a stance and of maintaining a position. So often, convictions are not convicting. Good intentions come up empty; plans are carefully constructed but never followed through with. When held, however, with a clear vision for improving the lives of others, they make a difference.
Furthermore, though the attention given to these issues often recognizes those who work for the cause rather than the cause itself, the potential for action on these issues nonetheless increases; through seeing what these advocates work against, those who would otherwise persist in ignorance lend attention to these issues. Thus, the spotlight on the activist extends to the issues themselves, inspiring unified efforts to bring about change. In fact, after Malala was shot, a similar movement helped to propel progress in Pakistani access to education.
Therefore, the Nobel Peace Prize is much more than a recognition of a person. It is a recognition of perseverance, of effort, of a cause worth fighting for. Malala Yousafzai embodies these principles. Through her actions, she brings to a new light the idea so well-known: education.