Ziauddin Yousafzai, the father of Nobel laureate and education activist Malala Yousafzai, spoke this week at Penn State to share his thoughts on education. He said that education transforms people, burnishes a person’s being, and “can change the world,” according to Annemarie Butkiewicz, reporting for the Centre Daily Times.
Yousafzai said that his childhood and education were filled with strife. He was bullied because he had dark skin and he stuttered. If not for his education, he continued, he too might have become hardened, vengeful, perhaps a bully himself. In an attempt to cure his stutter, he worked with his father on a speech.
“I learned it by heart, I closed my eyes, and spoke it … and it was wonderful,” Yousafzai said.
Yousafzai had a passion for education and eventually started a school. As driven as he was to share education with others, none of his five sisters were allowed to get an education in Pakistan. It was then that he vowed, if he had a daughter, she would have the chance to attend school.
Once he began speaking about his daughter, the pride he felt for her was radiant. When Malala was born, her father wrote her name on a cousin’s family tree. Women’s names are not normally added to a family tree, so his cousin was shocked to see him take such an action.
“I just smiled at him,” Yousafzai said with a laugh.“Almost everybody in a patriarchal society is known by his sons. I am one of the few who is known by his daughter, and I am proud of it.”
Malala’s father has encouraged the girls in his school to disobey, with respect, of course, when their parents try to keep them tied to patriarchal traditions. He also tells them to think critically and to question, because only one thing is worse than illiteracy, and that is indoctrination. He grew up in Pakistan during the US and the Soviet Cold War. He remembers asking God to allow the Muslims to kill the infidels.
“The world has gone mad,” Yousafzai said, “I can’t say it is childish, it is adultish. Children are very innocent, they are very cute, they are very wise. They don’t know how to manipulate, or how to cheat or how to lie, how to kill each other.”
Education, he says, can eliminate fundamentalism and terrorism.
Aarti Dhar of The Hindu quotes Malala’s father concerning the attack on his daughter, which he says was not an accident.
“It has a long story behind it. And that is the story of Swat Valley where hundreds of schools have been shut down, girls’ education is banned and all sane voices stifled.”
He added that the quality of the education a person receives is of equal importance to simply getting an education since many times children at learning institutions are being “indoctrinated.”