As the world and Pakistan celebrated Malala Yousafazai’s Nobel Peace Prize award on Friday, I recollected moments from her school life and how this little girl inspired her teachers and fellow friends.
As her teachers, we always felt that she was very talented not only in her studies but also in co-curricular activities. She was always the subject of teachers’ conversations and, despite her youth, left us surprised by her quick-witted approach to every topic.
I still remember when she was in the fifth grade and a team from a regional TV channel came to interview her about the importance of the mother tongue on the occasion of International Mother Tongue Day. To our surprise, little Malala spoke fluently and confidently, perhaps better than any of the adults.
In February 2012, Malala was invited to a foundation laying ceremony at the very last minute. She was brought to the event in the middle of the ceremony and the host invited her to say a few words. I felt nervous for her and wondered how she would talk on issues of archaeology and culture – the topic at hand. However, her confidence stood her in good stead and she did an admirable job.
At the age of nine, Malala participated in a debate. She blew the audience away with her level of confidence and logical train of thought. Even at that age, she had a knack for motivating her peers and opponents. She ultimately won the coveted trophy and medal at that debate competition and this first achievement proved to be the first of many. Now every tomorrow found her further from today.
Soon, she won provincial-level debates and speech competitions. I believe she has inherited oratory and rhetoric skills from her father.
The three years of extremism in Swat Valley were particularly difficult for women and children. They witnessed some of the most brutal and traumatizing acts, and many still struggle with the psychological effects of living through that time.
The world saw children and women here made vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, discrimination and other forms of violence. As a girl and student herself, young but blessed with the power of acute observation, Malala strongly felt the miseries of women around her. She strengthened herself up to speak of these hard times through her pen and thus inspired young children to be brave.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2014.