Citizenship - Fife embraces spirit of Malala

28th February 2014 at 00:00
Council's schools to receive desks paying tribute to the schoolgirl

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl-turned-education campaigner who was almost killed by the Taliban, has proved an inspirational figure the world over. She is in demand across the globe, appearing at venues from the United Nations in New York to the refugee camps of Jordan.

Now councillors in Fife are looking to bring her into Scottish classrooms - in spirit, at least - by spending up to pound;11,000 on desks engraved with her signature. One will be presented to each of its 160 schools.

The desks, which also bear the inscription "Malala's desk", could be left empty as a reminder to students of the children around the world who have no access to education, the council said. Alternatively, they could be used to reward students who proved themselves to be "global citizens".

The first desk was produced and presented as a gift to Malala herself when she laid a lintel stone as part of the opening ceremony of a new school in Fife, Burntisland Primary, last year. She was accompanied by the former prime minister and UN special envoy for global education Gordon Brown.

The desk was inspired by Malala's own classmates who, when she was being treated in the UK after her near-fatal shooting, left an empty desk for her bearing the same inscription.

John McLaughlin, an area education officer at Fife Council, said: "Every child should be able to make the most of themselves and getting a good education is key to that. The Malala story gets right to the heart of this issue, which is why we want to ensure every child in Fife knows it and is inspired by it.

"While we want to ensure our children are literate and numerate, we also want them to be ambitious and make a difference. It's about encouraging them to make the world a better place. It might sound a bit flowery but that's the reality."

Sally Romilly from the One World Centre in Dundee, which provides teachers with resources and training on global citizenship and sustainable education, agreed. "With 800 million people going to bed hungry every night, a billion with no access to clean water and 3 billion without proper sanitation, it is vital that children understand what action they could take to tackle injustice," she said.

"We don't want young people to just feel sorry for those living in other parts of the world because they don't have things. We want to stir them up, to make them see that this is an injustice and that something needs to be done about it."

The idea to produce the Malala desks was the brainchild of Fife Council's newly retired director of education, Ken Greer.

The authority will showcase the desks at its Values in Action through Global Citizenship conference next month, where Mr Brown will be the keynote speaker. The tables - which cost about pound;70 each - will be available for other councils to buy, with three already having expressed interest.

A spokesman for the campaigner said: "Malala is honoured to learn that schoolchildren in Fife are to receive desks bearing her signature. She is extremely touched by this gesture and wants to wish all children every success with their studies. If her signature helps to inspire any of them, even in a small way, then she is delighted."

MALALA'S JOURNEY

July 1997: Born in Pakistan's Swat Valley.

September 2008: Makes her first speech about girls' right to education.

January 2009: Starts blogging for the BBC about life under the Taliban.

October 2012: Shot by the Taliban on her way home from school. She is flown to the UK for life-saving surgery and makes a remarkable recovery.

2013: Her memoir I am Malala: the story of the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban is published, and she becomes the youngest person ever to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (she has been nominated for the prize again this year).

2014: Today she lives in Birmingham with her family and continues to campaign for education for all.

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