Some of the issues that arise for me in thinking about Malala and her quest for schooling:

One of the ironies for me is that her own education is far wider than the schooling system she is advocating for.  

Her father is an education activist,

He is in the business of schooling.  The school she was attending at the time of her shooting was owned by her father.

She had the privilege of sitting up late into the night to chat to her father about politics and anything else.

She used to write a blog for the BBC – so she got to participate meaningfully in the real world.

She had access to tons of books.

She had a rich education environment.

She is not a product of schooling.  She is the product of a rich environment of schooling, engaged parents and opportunities to participate meaningfully in the world around these she feels strongly about.

When people support this girls’ education’ that Malala advocates for, what they’re supporting in practice is bums on seats and a standardised curriculum.  
Not strong girls that can take on power. Unless it is black or brown power.
Not girls that will ask questions about the manufacturers of all those arms (including the one used to shoot Malala.
Not girls that might look into how those arms are making their way into their villages.
Not girls that will be the change makers of the broader social, economic and environmental  justice issues that affect them directly or indirectly.

All those things might still happen. Outside of and despite schooling though.

The other irony is that this education is understood to be liberating.  All this education is, is schooling. And schooling has never had liberation as its motivation.  It has an economic and political function. Sure, these girls are going to be able to access low paying factory work, and maybe one or two of them will get beyond that.  Some of them will make their way to the US, excel in academia and write feminists texts about the plight of poor brown girls that need liberating or critique the very system they’ve just come through.  But overall, there is nothing liberating about the schooling and the Education For All (UNESCO) that Malala is advocating for.

And of course girls want to got to school.  Anything that is restricted becomes desirable.  And of course they shouldn’t be prevented from attending schools.  But I suspect what they really want is what we all really want (I think).  Education. And the liberation, access to interesting information, exploring of ideas, and the opportunities to create the kind of life that speaks to them/us that comes with this education.  Schooling doesn’t do that. Schooling upholds the status quo and gets you a job.

Here are two interesting reads on the narrative around Malala:

Reading Malala: (De)(Re)Territorialization of Muslim Collectivities
Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, Vol. 35, Issue 3. , 2015
S. Khoja-Moolj

“Forwarding Literacy in I Am Malala: Resisting Commodification through Cooperation, Context, and Kinship”
Kara Poe Alexander

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