Manchester University
Oak Leaves

November 17, 2017

Education Is Power

Ciara Knisely

Okay, Spartans. It’s time to get serious. Knowledge really is power.

How many times have we said the words “I don’t wanna go to school today,” starting in Kindergarten up to now, college? I know I’ve said it probably a million times, and I still think it every time I have to wake up for my 10 a.m. (even though 10 a.m. isn’t that early so I should be grateful).

But the sad thing is that we are incredibly lucky, yet we take it for granted. We are encouraged, and somewhat forced, to attend school in the United States, and I spent my childhood annoyed at whoever decided that law that says we have to go.

Until recently, I never really sat down and thought about how lucky I was to be educated.

Forget high school geometry and translated copies of Mandarin poetry; some children will never learn how to read or write.

That is something that’s incredibly hard for me to wrap my head around; not only that some people live their entire lives without receiving an education, but also that not all governments even allow education. In my English senior seminar we recently finished the memoir I Am Malala, which tells the story of now-twenty-year-old Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan, who was sixteen when she was shot in the head by a Taliban member for advocating for education for women.

While Taliban and the Pakistani government battled for power over Pakistan, Malala, her father, and others developed a school that allowed girls to continue their education, but the Taliban highly disapproved, so much that they would kill civilians and leave them in the school’s courtyard with threats via handwritten notes attached to the bodies.

Of course, the story of Pakistan’s government and the Taliban is something else on its own entirely, but it is a war torn country, where girls are forcibly prevented from getting an education because women are considered second-class citizens. A Taliban member later wrote to Malala explaining that she was interrupting their implementation of their branch of Islam, but we can safely assume it was because she was an outspoken advocate for women’s education. Women’s education just happened to violate that branch of religion.

Can you imagine? Being afraid to walk down the street, hiding your textbooks inside your clothes as you hurry to class, ditching your school uniform because it would give you away to patrolling Taliban, all to go to school and do homework? This is what Malala faced, along with many other girls, and that’s the tip of the iceberg.

Maybe you are wondering, “Why would anyone do that? Why would you dance so close with death just to go to school?”

Malala says it better than I could, but her story is worth repeating again and again, because it is so full of truth and power.

Knowledge gives people freedom, and it’s obvious to people like Malala, who have seen the difference in being educated or not, and what happens to their society when the public or government aren’t adequately educated.

I can’t say much about what rules the Taliban forced upon boys and men, though I do know that they preferred all citizens to attend a madrasa, a religious school (to be taught Taliban ideologies), instead of a formal school. However, to forcibly, violently, prevent others from receiving an education, or even simple literacy, is a form of manipulation and social terrorism.

“He believed that lack of education was the root of all of Pakistan’s problems. Ignorance allowed politicians to fool people and bad administrators to be re-elected.”

-Malala Yousafzai, I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

How would the average Pakistani citizen know what to believe, if one military power tells them one thing and another tells them something different, but they cannot read or write to find out the truth? This is the root of modern, Western vs. Middle Eastern terrorism, in my opinion. Citizens are unknowingly but tactfully socialized and ‘educated’ with information that isn’t always correct or moral, though the same could probably be said about the United States, too.

My point is that we are here. We attend this amazing school, with amazing professors. There are no threats or dead bodies on the Mall; we will never have to worry about anything remotely similar to Malala’s story. We should be thankful, because we are so freely given the chance to have an education, and we forget that not everyone has the same opportunities.

But on the same note, I hope that we can use this revelation to enact more good in the world. I am educated, soon to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, and I feel it very deeply that my education needs to go toward something good, something real and honest and meaningful, and Malala’s cause is something worth fighting for, especially now that I see how powerful education and knowledge are.

“When someone takes away your pens you realize quite how important education is.” 

― Malala YousafzaiI Am Malala

And if you ever need some inspiration, this line is one of my very favorites:

“If one man can destroy everything, why can't one girl change it?”

― Malala Yousafzai, I Am Malala