It is often said that getting a good education is very beneficial to setting one up for life, but what would you do if you lived in a country where that very fundamental birthright is banned, perceptively stigmatised or unaffordable. I’m writing this article in honor of teen Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai’s story who courageously fights for what she believes in, but there are people in her country against her doing so.
Back on October 10, 2012, 15 year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban on her way home from school where she had been campaigning to promote equal educational rights for girls. This brave, aspirational teenager once wanted to become a doctor but had a change of heart, “inspired” by the incident and her homeland’s troubles she now wants to become a politician.
Malala advocates that education is more than just the subjects that you learn, it is teaching you about life, history, and communication. Treating all students equally teaches equality, and acceptance of others, justice and respect, which in turn builds the basis for living together peacefully.
My educational experience was similar to hers in that the schooling system in Lebanon was not supportive of a full and equal academic standard. I went to a special school for people with disabilities which works on the basis that a student’s capacity to learn is based on the student’s cognitive capacity to understand, this is in part because the societal perception is that if one is physically crippled then they must also be mentally crippled. In addition to this, I would have been forced to leave school in Lebanon at 14 years old, as they no longer cater for those with special needs after this age.
However as a bright young girl I quickly reached the point at which my overall cognitive, academic and social development was being hindered as a result of the mental-physical stigma that disability presents, and at 12.5 years old my parents and I agreed that “special needs schools” were no longer meeting my needs intellectually and we began to explore new options.
Tied in with the different educational standards was a stigma I commonly experienced in Lebanon; the idea that caring for a person with a disability was something demeaning and to be left to the “maids”. Many parents would have been disgusted to have their child sharing a classroom with a disabled child, and while my family fought to get me into mainstream schooling in Lebanon, the stigma coupled with financial expenses made mainstream schooling a non-viable option.
My parents and I moved back to my birth country of Australia to finish my school education in the mainstream and get my life back on track. Had the right educational support been available my family and I would not have had to leave the majority of our family in Lebanon and move to Australia.
I’m now at point where I feel completely comfortable with my own ability because I haven’t been stopped from pursuing anything I want to pursue. I’ve completed my school education, including 2 years on the SRC and am now a writer for Fighting Chance Australia, it is highly likely I would not have achieved all this had I remained in Lebanon.
So, I conclusively feel that developing countries should take a leaf out of Malala Yousefzai’s crusade and start creating more educational awareness campaigns, promoting the benefits of education for
all persons, and put in place centres like Fighting Chance Australia so that people can learn more about people with disabilities and learn to see them as “able” instead of disabled.
So, based on this story, for this blog; I’d like to pose a question to the readers and the disability multicultural community of Australia: – Have you ever had to leave your home country and migrate elsewhere to seek a better education for yourselves or for your kids? Feel free to share your story here.
You’re welcome to read more on Malala Yousefzai on these links: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gordon-brown/a-unified-global-moment-t_b_2081970.html , http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2012/oct/26/malala-yousafzai-father-video and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjGL6YY6oMs