From the first scene—in which Malala is shot by the Taliban for riding a bus to school—to the final chapter—in which Malala lobbies for a UN resolution in favor of universal education—I Am Malala celebrates the importance of education. It could be said that education determines the way Malala comes of age: the more she learns, the more she recognizes the value of learning, and the more mature she becomes.
Education empowers people, not only by giving them knowledge that they can use to gain power, but by encouraging them to have confidence in themselves. Ziauddin, Malala’s father, knows this first-hand. As a child, he struggles to overcome a stammer and assert himself before his proud, intimidating father, Rohul Amin. Ziauddin studies literature and rhetoric, eventually winning a series of prestigious speaking competitions. In this way, he overcomes his stammer, and develops the drive and work ethic that continue to make him a successful political figure for years afterwards. From an early age, Malala is aware of Ziauddin’s self-education. One of the earliest parts of her education, one might say, is her realization that she can do anything with the proper studying and preparation.
As Malala grows up, her respect for education grows. While she does well on her exams (usually ranking at the top of her class), her most important moments of learning come when she sees the impact of education on others. This is particularly clear in the chapter where Malala goes to Islamabad with her father’s friend, Shiza Shahid. In the large, cosmopolitan city, Malala is overjoyed to see women with professional careers and strong, forceful personalities. Each of these women tells Malala the same thing: pursue your education at all costs. It’s no coincidence that when Malala returns to her native town of Mingora, she throws herself into her political projects: condemning the Taliban for their opposition to universal education, making radio broadcasts, and reaching out to struggling women around her country. Malala’s coming-of-age largely consists of her increasing recognition of the value of learning.
There’s never a moment in I Am Malala where Malala has serious doubts about the value of education—indeed, the only change in her attitude toward education is that she comes to value it more and more. As the book ends, Malala is stronger and more mature than ever, and thus, more confident about the value of education. In the final chapter, she embarks on her most ambitious project yet: a United Nations resolution designed to ensure an education for every child on the planet.
The Power of Education ThemeTracker
The Power of Education Quotes in I Am Malala
[My father] believes strongly in freedom of speech. “First, let’s read the book and then why not respond with our own book,” he suggested. He ended by asking in a thundering voice my grandfather would have been proud of, “Is Islam such a weak religion that it cannot tolerate a book written against it? Not my Islam!”
Some of our religious people saw Osama bin Laden as a hero. In the bazaar you could buy posters of him on a white horse and boxes of sweets with his picture on them. These clerics said 9/11 was revenge on the Americans for what they had been doing to other people round the world, but they ignored the fact that the people in the World Trade Center were innocent and had nothing to do with American policy and that the Holy Quran clearly says it is wrong to kill. Our people see conspiracies behind everything, and many argued that the attack was actually carried out by Jews as an excuse for America to launch a war on the Muslim world. Some of our newspapers printed stories that no Jews went to work at the World Trade Center that day. My father said this was rubbish.
Mullah from the TNSM preached that the earthquake was a warning from God. If we did not mend our ways and introduce shariat or Islamic law, they shouted in their thundering voices, more severe punishment would come.
In the beginning Fazlullah was very wise. He introduced himself as an Islamic reformer and an interpreter of the Quran. My mother is very devout, and to start with she liked Fazlullah. He used his station to encourage people to adopt good habits and abandon practices he said were bad.
We don’t have any option. We are dependent on these mullahs to learn the Quran,” he said. “But you just use him to learn the literal meanings of the words; don’t follow his explanations and interpretations. Only learn what God says. His words are divine messages, which you are free to interpret.”
It was school that kept me going in those dark days.
The Taliban’s deadline was drawing closer: girls had to stop going to school. How could they stop more than 50,000 girls from going to school in the twenty-first century? I kept hoping something would happen and the schools would remain open. But finally the deadline was upon us.
Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow. Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human.
A few days later the video was everywhere. A woman filmmaker in Islamabad got hold of it and it was shown on Pakistan TV over and over, and then around the world. People were rightly outraged, but this reaction seemed odd to us as it showed they had no idea of the awful things going on in our valley. I wish their outrage extended to the Taliban’s banning of girls’ education.
It seemed like everyone knew I had written the BBC diary. Some thought my father had done it for me but Madam Maryam, our principal, told them, “No. Malala is not just a good speaker but also a good writer.”
Islamabad was totally different from Swat. It was as different for us as Islamabad is to New York. Shiza introduced us to women who were lawyers and doctors and also activists, which showed us that women could do important jobs yet still keep their culture and traditions. We saw women in the streets without purdah, their heads completely uncovered. I stopped wearing my shawl over my head in some of the meetings, thinking I had become a modern girl.
“Go and ask the manager of the White Palace Hotel and he will tell you what these girls did…”
He put down the paper. “It has no signature. Anonymous.”
“Too many people in the Muslim world can’t believe a Muslim can do such a thing,” she said. “My mother, for example, would say they can’t be Muslims. Some people call themselves Muslims but their actions are not Islamic.” We talked about how things happen for different reasons, this happened to me, and how education for females not just males is one of our Islamic rights. I was speaking up for my rights as a Muslim woman to be able to go to school.