Go To School Because You Can

Today I told my female students that it was their last day of school. They are no longer allowed to get an education. It was a new government rule. Initially, I had their male classmates tell them the news. With a straight face, I told a group of mostly 10-year-old girls to put their dreams and aspirations aside because they won’t have the education necessary to achieve them.

“It’s not that girls don’t have the talent to do something in their life. They are stopped in society.” ~Malala Yousafzai

As expected, my female students did not take this news lightly. Even though they knew that it was not real, they were hurt, stunned, and angry. When I told my male students to think of their classmates, sisters and other relatives, they too, were in a state of disbelief.

“I was just ten…education went from being a right, to being a crime. Girls were stopped from going to school.” ~Malala Yousafzai

I have been fascinated by the story of Malala Yousafzi from the very beginning. Most people remember her as The Girl Who Was Shot By The Taliban. She was just 15 years old when it happened on October 9, 2012.

What amazes me today about Malala is her bravery, perseverance, inspirational words, and poise. It has only been three years! By age 18, she has been denied an education, the target of an assassination attempt and suffered a life-threatening head injury. That hasn’t stopped her though. By age 18, she has also started the Malala Fund, opened schools, continued her education, AND been honored with multiple awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize.

“Whatever happened to me, I should now forget about it and continue my life with more courage and more work.” ~Malala Yousafzai


This week I have decided to share three short videos that made an impact on me. They reflect who Malala is today and through the words of her father, how she came to be. Below is the list of the three videos and some of the stories or quotes that stood out to me. Don’t forget to click on the title below to view each video link.


1) Ted Talks: My Daughter, Malala – In this 17-minute video, Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, gives an insight into patriarchal societies and how he chose to raise his daughter differently.  [March 24, 2014]

  • “In patriarchal societies, right from the very beginning, when a girl is born, her birth is not celebrated. She is not welcomed neither by her father, nor by her mother.”
  • Shortly after Malala’s birth, by coincidence, his cousin came with a family tree tracing ancestors back 300 years. All were men. He got a pen, drew a line from his name and wrote Malala’s name.
  • He admitted Malala into his school at 4 ½ years old, where he was an educator.
  • “Enrollment in a school means recognition of her identity and her name. Admission in a school means that she has entered the world of dreams and aspirations where she can explore her potential for her future life.”
  • “Don’t ask me what I did. Ask me what I didn’t do. I did not clip her wings.”


2)  Malala Yousafzai Noble Peace Prize Speech – In this 27-minute video, Malala accepts her award and shares her story and passion about education. Not only was she the first Pakistani, but also the youngest at age 17.  [Published December 11, 2014]

  • “I was just ten…education went from being a right to being a crime. Girls were stopped from going to school.”
  • “When my world suddenly changed, my priorities changed too: one was to remain silent and wait to be killed and the second was to speak up and then be killed. I chose the second one. I decided to speak up.”


3)  Malala Interview, Ellen DeGeneres Show – Malala shares her thoughts about her attackers, her initial reaction to hearing about the Noble Peace Prize award, her dream of quality education and her advice to today’s students. The video is 10 minutes. [September 9, 2015]

  • “Girls deserve the right to go to school.”
  • “He [her father] has not clipped my wings. He has allowed me to fly as high as I can. And this is how we want parents to be—to allow their children to fulfill their dreams, to achieve who they want to be.”
  • [Reaction to Noble Peace Prize] “I said, ‘ok’ and then I said, ‘I want to finish my school [day] and ‘cause I am standing up for education, and I have been given this award because I’m fighting for children’s rights to go to school. So, I deserve this right to study today in school, finish my school day, and then I’ll go and have press interviews and stuff.”
  • “It’s important that children respect education and they take it more seriously; consider it important for their future, for their country’s development, and also that we join together, we come together and help all those children who are out of school.”
  • “No child should be deprived of the basic human right of education.”


During our class discussion, we talked about how students often complain about classwork, projects, homework, and getting up for school. By watching the September 2015 interview, many of their views were changed. They learned that education was a privilege, denied to too many.

Lastly, I had the students say to their partner, I have to go to school; then I had them look at their partner again and change the statement to I get to go to school. They said that they felt a positive difference by changing one word. My students are fifth graders; so, truthfully, I may never know the impact of this lesson. However, I believe that if Malala’s words and actions have inspired at least one of my students, then it was time well spent in the classroom.

 “Education helps you to get an identity. It helps you to know about your basic human rights. It helps you to discover about yourself, about your talents, about your skills and how you can help your community and your society.” ~Malala Yousafzai


Image by Diane GP

Everyone should have the opportunity to fly high and reach for the sky.




  1. Great post, Diane! As you say, there is a world of difference between “I have to” and “I get to.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *