Too often I have neglected the value of education in my life until realizing the challenges that many people throughout history and around the world face in their own fight for the right to an education. Two individuals from different eras and parts of the world with entirely unique conditions who fought for their right to be educated are Frederick Douglass and Malala Yousafzi. Frederick Douglass, a black man living in the United States in the 1800s, growing up under the horrors of slavery; and Malala Yousafzi, a young Pakistani Muslim girl living under Taliban rule risking her life to declare her right to an education. Each of these individuals’ endured unimaginable hardships to pursue an education which many in the Western developed nations take for granted. After reading about these individuals, my perspective on the importance and honor to have access to education has shifted drastically, which I will share through discussing the lives of Douglass and Malala’s educational pursuit.
In the 1800s when Douglass was growing up, a slave was forbidden to receive and education, so when he found a way to learn to read, Douglass was technically breaking the law. “This bread I used to bestow upon the hungry little urchins, who, in return, would give me that more valuable bread of knowledge” (Douglass). He would do things like offer food to the poor, hungry white boys, who knew how to read, in order to get them to help him learn to read. Despite the fact that it was “an unpardonable offence to teach slaves to read in this Christian country” Douglass used his wit and charm to find a means to gain the ability to read and even learn to write (Douglass). I find it awe inspiring thinking of what Douglass contributed to the world, which would never have been possible had he not been one to see the value in education. His liberation would eventually come as a result of his ability to read and write, which most slaves were unable to do.
Fast forward to the 21st century and there is Malala Yousafzi, a teenage girl growing up in Pakistan under the threat of the Taliban. Even prior to the horrible event involving her getting shot in the face by a Taliban member, she was an advocate of the importance of education for girls. Her story is incredibly moving to me because it could have been so much easier to opt out of school and remain safe from harm, yet she was diligent in her rights to an education. Not only was she a top notch student, but a truly courageous girl that spoke up against the Taliban’s rules through going on interviews with the media, such as “Voice of America and the BBC” actually placed herself in grave danger by challenging the Taliban in a public forum (Yousafzi and Lamb).
Through reviewing the lives of two figures completely distinct from myself I have gained a greater sense of appreciation for something that has always been handed to me. Not only has an education been an assumed automatic part of my life, but something that through most of my schooling years I have hated at certain points. Recognizing the hardships faced by Douglas and Malala makes me look inside and acknowledge that I should be tremendously grateful to be given the gift of an education because there are people in the world now and long ago who went through unimaginable difficulties to pursue their rights to expanding their knowledge through education. I cannot help but to wonder how I might feel if I had to fight for the right to pursue my own education, would I go to the extremes that these two individuals had. Maybe now that I recognize the value of an education as a priceless commodity that people have been willing to risk their lives for, I may reconsider the significance of this aspect of life that comes so easily to me and been neglected. I cannot help but to feel some shame in my own attitude thus far on education.
Douglas, Frederick. “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave.”
1845.Boston: Published at the Anti-Slavery Office, No. 25 Cornhill, 1845.
Yousafzi, Malala and Christina Lamb. “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and
was Shot by the Taliban.” 2013. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.