“Education is the ONLY solution.”
— Malala Yousafzai
Today Teach For All stands with the Malala Fund, UNESCO, A World At School, and many other international organizations in celebration of the 17th birthday of education advocate Malala Yousafzai, and in support of the right of every girl and boy to attend school and receive a quality education.
In October 2012, 15-year-old Pakistani student Malala Yousafzai was shot by extremists for advocating that all children, regardless of gender, deserve an education. Less than a year later, on her 16th birthday, young delegates from around the world gathered in New York City for the Malala Day Global Youth Summit held at the United Nations, where, in her historic speech, Malala called upon governments and citizens around the world to “wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons.”
Among the more than 500 delegates attending the event were representatives of the Teach For All network from Teach For India, Enseña Chile, and Teach For America. Pamela Santis, a 19-year old former Enseña Chile student, was selected from the hundreds of young leaders from across the globe as one of 11 delegates invited to share her own story of overcoming barriers to ensure she and her classmates received the education they deserved. In front of an audience of peers from around the world, as well as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, and, of course, Malala, Pamela shared her experiences during the 2011 Chilean student protests, when demonstrators boycotted schools across the country in demand of higher quality, affordable education for all. Throughout the seven months that her high school was shut down due to the protests, Pamela and her Enseña Chile teacher convened classes in a church so that she and her classmates could continue to study and prepare for their university admission exams.
“Under these conditions, I attended lessons every day because I definitely wanted to enter university,” Pamela explained. “This was a big challenge, especially because if I managed to get into university, I would be the first member of my family to attend. The fact that only a marginal percentage of people from my school and similar ones actually enter university was always in the back of my mind and kept me going.”
Despite the obstacles she faced, Pamela is one of the fortunate young women and men around the world who are able to overcome the challenges of educational inequity and go on to realize their true potential and achieve their dreams. Today, there are still millions of children who do not finish school, because of their gender or background or the community in which they live. Reflecting on her experiences at the Malala Day Global Youth Summit, Pamela wrote:
“The simple fact of speaking on the stage of the United Nations is really exciting, but personally what was meaningful for me was seeing hundreds of people from various parts of the world, all demanding the same: Quality education for all, regardless of where you are born.
Not having classes for seven months and ending your senior year in a chapel due to the closure of your school is a small effort compared to hundreds of countries calling for a solution. Malala, despite her young age, is one of the most courageous and inspiring people I've met in my life. After the attack she suffered, it would have been understandable to give up her fight and protect her integrity and that of her family—but the fact that she continues to fight with even more determination makes it clear that we can all do something to change what’s not right if we believe in it.”
Today, together with the Malala Fund and organizations and individuals across the globe, we’re advocating for every girl and boy around the world who, like Malala, must fight for the right to the equitable, excellent education they deserve. At Teach For All, we’re #StrongerThan educational inequity.
Read about Pamela Santis’s education advocacy in Chile and her experience meeting Malala at the Global Youth Summit.
Read Teach For All CEO Wendy Kopp's reflections on how Malala made education a top priority on the global agenda.