This week Malala Yousefzi celebrated her 16th birthday. She marked her birthday addressing the United Nations, advocating education for all children and calling for peace. Shot by the Taliban at 15 for promoting the education of all girls she is an amazing role model for any young girl.
My daughter was preparing a speech for school this week about being a male miner in the Australian goldrush. Interesting to some no doubt but to an 11 year old girl, so not. I have been interning at UNICEF the past few weeks so I had Malala on my mind. I told Lily all about her, how she was from Pakistan and she had been shot for speaking up about giving all girls an education. I explained she had just given a speech in New York on her birthday seeking support to ensure that all children receive an education. Lily was fascinated, here is a girl only five years older than her that has not only done some pretty awesome public speaking but has also been brave enough to continue to call for action despite being shot and threatened.
Lily decided that for her end of year speech for “Night of Notables”she would be Malala. She rushed off to school the next day to quickly tell her teacher because they aren’t allowed to double up with another child and she felt Malala was such a great notable that she would be a popular choice. Unfortunately her teachers reaction to her choice was “Who’s that?”
That same day it was announced by the Australian government that all asylum seekers attempting entering Australia by boat would be sent straight to Papua New Guinea for processing and that no-one trying to enter Australia by sea would ever be settled in Australia. Full page advertisements were taken out in major newspapers announcing this new policy. I read today that as a result the Prime Minister’s voter support has increased.
The government’s new hardline stance made me think about how we are educating our children. We teach them Australian history – post settlement, we teach them how to do complicated maths and how to read and write good essays. Are we teaching them a global perspective and a compassion and empathy for others? Are we inspiring our girls with role models or super-models? I know that Australian children are fortunate in having free education but I think we have a responsibility as a developed country to do more. Currently our education system grows children that become adults that can applaud a decision to close our doors to people escaping war and persecution who are simply seeking a safe place to live and work and raise their families.
All I can do is try and teach my children that they are fortunate to live in a lucky country and to never forget that there are so many children unlike them that don’t have opportunities to thrive and succeed. I just hope there are other parents that feel the same way.