On 9 October 2012, Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani schoolgirl was shot in the head and neck in an attempt by Taliban gunmen to assassinate her while returning home on a school bus. She became a target of the Taliban after campaigning for girls’ rights to access education. She lived in the Northwest region of Pakistan, in the Swat Valley, which was under Taliban rule at the time. The Taliban banned girls from attending school in January 2009 and destroyed around 150 schools. At the same time, Malala, aged 11, began writing a blog for the BBC in Urdu under the pen name ‘Gul Makai’ about her life under the Taliban (see BBC, 2009). Her diary gives an idea of the dangers Malala and other girls faced simply by attending school.
Her diary entry on 3 January 2009 talks of her fear of the Taliban, who had recently issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools. However, Malala still attended school that day, along with 11 others (out of 27). After school on her way home, she heard a man saying that he would kill her. Luckily, this time, the man was talking on his mobile phone, threatening someone else. Subsequent diary entries talk about how she was ordered by the principal not to wear her uniform or colourful clothes to school and how fearful she was that she may never attend school again as a result of the Taliban’s edict.
Peace was eventually restored in the region in 2011 with the help of the Pakistani military. This paved the way for Malala to campaign actively for girls’ education in the media. Unfortunately, the media attention also drew criticism from her Taliban opponents, leading to the attempt to assassinate her in 2012. Fortunately, after her attack, she was flown to the UK and treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham where she made a full recovery.
In her first public speech since the attack, on 12 July 2013, Malala Yousafzai, aged 16, addressed the United Nations in her campaign for universal education. 12 July is now officially known as Malala Day. In her speech, she said, ‘Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first’ (Malala Yousafzai, in BBC, 2013).
In an article titled, ‘Malala and global citizenship’, Rafiq (2013) believes Malala is the perfect example of a global citizen. He writes: ‘We saw Malala the Muslim, Malala the Pakistani, Malala the Pashtun, Malala the South Asian, Malala the young woman, and Malala the global citizen. Instead of situating herself in a single camp, Malala has embraced them all.’ Rafiq urges young Pakistanis to learn from Malala’s example and extend the love they have for their country outside its borders. Embracing humanity in this way will allow them to be a part of the global community.
Answer the following key questions:
- Is Malala a good example of a global citizen? Be prepared to justify your answer.
- Rafiq (2013) believes it is possible to reconcile the tensions between nationalism versus universalism. How is this achieved and is it really possible?
- Overall, what do you think of the concept of global citizenship education? Is it desirable? As discussed in the chapter, many view it as an elitist, Western pursuit. Do you think this is the case with Malala?