Cut-throat competition, rigour and long nights mix to create a student’s ultimate test: their education. But for countless students (me included!), school is not just a building. It holds the key to our futures, and serves as a constant reminder than our future is for us to create and is truly in our hands. Whatever we make of our journey through these halls, however trivial or momentous, will surely prove its worth in our lives.
But education to others is not just a key to our future, but a key to open a man-made locked door: systemic barriers. Learning and knowledge as under-appreciated as they can be, are also seen as the key to respect and personal pride. Education is a skill that can be widely used and one of the only skills which can essentially not be taken away. Restricting access to education for those of a low socio-economic status, of an “undesired” or “unnecessary” identity and instilling man-made barriers are the only things stopping us.
Take Malala Yousafzai, world famous leader and advocate for female education. She was denied the right to an education by a government who refused to see women having a place in anything but the kitchen. Malala demonstrated her commitment towards her aspirations but for this, she was shot in the head. And while it may have been this ambition of hers that dealt her that bullet, it was that same ambition of hers that led her to the world-wide respect she has garnered today.
So given Malala’s story, is it appropriate for the global society to say that we have progressed in terms of minority rights? My answer would be yes, but no. Yes, the world has made progress. With huge difficulty and a constant fight since 1848, women have managed to abate traditional views of females and lead the world towards a progressive view. However, we have simply not progressed enough. I personally fail to understand how others can view a gender as a signal to stay within social barriers set by others. As I tend to see the world through a scientific world, I also see it like this: somehow having two X chromosomes instead of one X and one Y chromosome means that our lives were dictated for us.
But how does this relate to education? Its quite simple, really. If everyone in the world was presented with unbiased trustworthy insight on society and societal issues, we would all have the freedom to derive our own opinions given the information we have. And perhaps, it would be easier for us to respect one another’s personal opinions being derived from that information since our experiences shape our values. This would mean that although conflicting opinions may be present, they would not cause widespread divide because the global population would learn to view life from another’s perspective. And in this way, we could learn from each other; the chain would never stop.
Learning is something I think I have taken for granted. I never took the time to realize how much having an education would mean for those who were deprived of the same right I was given. When I first realized this, I was five years old and was visiting my grandparent’s house in India. They lived in a large lane with houses lined the left side of the streets with wide windows on either side of the house. I vividly remember rushing with excitement towards the open windows when I first entered the house, but I looked outside and my heart sank. At five years old, I was seeing poverty for the first time right in front of me.
Lining the opposite side of the street were a group of about 30 people living on the street. My eyes first fell on two girls that looked my age, and I vividly remember being transfixed at the windowsill watching these two girls chase each other in the street, laughing. And every time I sat down to leisurely read or to complete assigned homework, my mind when straight to those two girls. What would they have made of the same opportunity I had right in front of me? Eleven years later, I believe they would have made a completely different life for themselves. They would have been more grateful for the opportunities I have been given and truthfully speaking, they would have approached everyday at school with much more grace that I ever did. But I will never know what happened to those two girls.
Education makes all the world’s difference. It can stop the spread of misinformation, can lead populations towards new ideas and can help better the understanding we have of our world. But school and learning isn’t about regurgitated essays, algebra equations or class presentations. It is about the future, and it is ultimately the only way forward.