Global Youth and the Rise of Education: A Reflection for Malala Day

Today is Malala Yousafzai’s 21st birthday and is celebrated as Malala Day. The United Nations as it commemorates not only her birthday but also the day she delivered a powerful speech at the UN to call for worldwide access to education. It was her first public speech since being targeted by the Taliban for her commitment to education.

I’m encouraged by our global youth today and their unwavering commitment to education.

Young people all over the world are refusing to accept their circumstances and are finding motivation from inside themselves. They’ve risen to this challenge with a level of drive, desire, and passion. They understand that in order to have a better life, they need to be educated. Many have a deep dissatisfaction and refuse to continue living in poverty. Once they discover what’s possible their ambition drives them to pursue it fully.

 

My mother’s parents were immigrants from Germany. The boys of the family learned brick and stone masonry in the snowy cold of Michigan. My mother lived in a community, which had a one-room schoolhouse. There weren’t many resources. Not many people placed a high importance on education. You had to keep persevering. Students needed to do the homework and intentionally move forward.

My mother was self-motivated. But she also had a teacher who encouraged her to continue and instilled in her a hope for the future. While her siblings were dropping out of school to start working, my mother stayed in. She was the first child in that family to earn a college degree. Thanks to her influence, my dad also developed the same priorities and passed them along to me, and I along with my children and grandchildren. When one person changes and moves out to do something, that choice changes the trajectory of their lives.

Her dedication to education surely affected my life and the lives of my children.

Education can mean the difference between continuing the generational cycle of poverty for an entire family or creating new opportunities and thriving. This is true, especially among young girls. Through our work at FH, we’ve seen parents forced to sell their daughters into marriage as young as 10 years old. They can’t afford to provide for them any longer. Selling them seems to be the only option they have for survival or ensuring their other children have enough to eat. This practice robs young girls of the chance to finish school and seek out greater opportunities.

It robs them of fully living out their God-given talents.

While traveling in Bangladesh I met a woman who was a part of one of our savings groups. She was committed to her daughter’s education. She had a dream of becoming a nurse. I know that I might never personally see the impact of that choice, but I know that the mother’s support and the daughter’s dedication to a better future will change that family forever.

I’m certain that we have to give our young people the credit they deserve.

Children all over the world who come from a wide variety of cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds are all capable. Regardless of circumstances, they have the capacity to do big things if we as parents, churches, educators, and community leaders will all come together to prioritize their education. I’m confident that if we don’t set the finish line too close, there is no limit to how much they can achieve.