During my very first week as a university student, on my second day of class (it was a Wednesday), I climbed to the fourth floor of the University of Guelph-Humber to find my Mass Communication professor standing before 100-odd chairs, some not yet filled, wearing grey dress pants and a sweater vest, sipping water from an environmentally friendly glass bottle. He greeted everyone that walked in with a nod or a smile and was showing off some of his secret iTunes playlists, filled with songs I’m sure about 50 per cent of the class had never even heard before.
This professor of mine, he loved education and that he had a classroom full of eager first years willing to suck in every ounce of word, thought, sound that emerged within those classroom walls for an entire semester. Though, he never let us forget how much of a privilege it was to be experiencing post-secondary school and post-secondary school in Toronto, geographically (not socially, economically or psychosocially) distant from wars over oil, religion, terror, diamonds, slavery and riches.
Today, almost five years from my Mass Communication class, a girl named Malala Yousafzai made a beautiful, powerful, engaging and meaningful appeal to the United Nations about equal rights to education on her 16th birthday. Yousafzai presented for the first time since she was shot by the Taliban on the left side of her head while on her way home from school in Paskitan.
In her speech, Yousafzai said, “They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed…And then, out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born. I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. My dreams are the same.”
Yousafzai’s words were shared with hashtag #MalalaDay all over Twitter, in honour of today’s events at the U.N. on the young lady’s birthday. “Malala Day is not my day,” the motivational speaker said. “Today is the day of every woman, every man, every boy and every girl who have raised their voices for their rights.”
Throughout the duration of the speech, I kept thinking back to that first week of classes in 2008. I knew so little about being thankful for the education I was about to receive. All I knew was fear that I would fail a class, fear that I would make no friends, fear that I would never get a job and fear that I’d graduate a broke girl. All are superficial, especially when considering the thousands of people who have never experienced the most elementary of schools.
If I hadn’t gone to school, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. My education has shaped my life and the person I’ve grown up to be so much that if someone took the experience of learning away from me, I wouldn’t be able to recognize myself in the mirror, nor would I be able to do majority of the things I’m able to do that so many of us take for granted, like reading and writing.
With equal rights to education, we are saying, “Yes” to literacy, creativity, new breakthroughs in health and science, lower poverty rates, a better economy, a world without borders and ultimately, as Yousafzai put so eloquently, a world at peace.
What did you think of today’s #MalalaDay celebrations? Did you participate?
Here’s a little something I like to listen to when I’m feeling inspired: