This week the children in the Links to Literacy Book Club read "I am Malala" by Malala Yousafzai for our second meeting of the academic year. This book is, by any standards, a challenging read, but even more so given the Taliban's recent and disturbing developments in Afghanistan. As the meeting date crept closer, I found that I was apprehensive about the choice of book; how could I begin to explain why the Taliban hold the beliefs they do? What justification can there ever be for killing innocent children and bombing girls' schools? Would the meeting be depressingly hopeless and sad? I needn't have worried though as the children approached the topics with maturity and our discussions were surprisingly uplifting - even empowering.
The story of Malala Yousafzai's life is extraordinary and massively life-affirming. Malala was born in the Swat valley in Pakistan during turbulent times of trouble and terror. Religious fundamentalists tried to deny her, and other girls, an education. Targeted and shot because of her belief and bravery to stand up to the Taliban, Malala's breath-taking story is shocking, exciting and surprising. The members' responses to the book varied from not liking the book (though still finding it interesting) to finding it one of the best, and most inspiring, books that they had ever read.
I am proud of the Book Club members who not only presented a short individual talk but who discussed some very difficult topics - all after a long day at school and, in some cases, after additional English lessons as well. We specifically focused on issues of gender inequality in education and what it means to them and and to others, who are less fortunate, around the world. What are the challenges that some girls around the world face in receiving an education and how can these barriers be overcome?
From Malala's actions, we examined how one person can help to change the world. I hope that the members have developed some sense of how activism works and how they themselves could use their "voice" to be heard and make a difference.