Education transforms people, polishes personalities and it can change the world.
That is what Ziauddin Yousafzai told an audience of more than 200 people in Schwab Auditorium on Tuesday night.
Yousafzai is the father of education activist Malala Yousafzai, who recently became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Yousafzai recounted his childhood and his education, which was filled with struggles, being bullied for his dark skin and his stutter.
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If it had not been for education, he could have retaliated and become mean as well, bullying for vengeance.
But in an effort to overcome his stutter, Yousafzai worked on reciting a speech with his father, a source of great inspiration in his life.
“I learned it by heart, I closed my eyes, and spoke it ... and it was wonderful,” Yousafzai said.
Yousafzai talked about his passion for education, and his passion for sharing education, which later inspired him to start a school.
Despite his great appreciation for his education, none of his five sisters could get an education, he said. He promised himself as a young boy that should he have a daughter, he would give her an education.
When he talked about his daughter Malala, his pride radiated through the room. In an act of love and rebellion, Yousafzai wrote Malala’s name on a cousin’s family tree when she was born. His cousin looked at him in shock, because women don’t traditionally go on family trees.
“I just smiled at him,” Yousafzai said with a laugh.“Almost everybody in a patriarchal society is known by his sons. I am one of the few who is known by his daughter, and I am proud of it.”
Yousafzai talked about the importance of giving women dignity and respect, which included an education. He encouraged the girls at his school, who are “brilliant,” to disobey, with respect, when their parents try to make them conform to archaic patriarchal traditions, like arranged marriages between very young girls and very old men.
In the school he started, he said he always encouraged critical thinking and questioning, because the one thing that is worse than illiteracy, Yousafzai said, is indoctrination.
Yousafzai talked about growing up in Pakistan during tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and how he had math questions like “If there are 15 Russian soldiers, and Muslims kill 5 of them, how many Russian soldiers are left?”
He talked about praying to god for the Muslims to kill the infidels, one of the dangers of the indoctrination system in which he was educated.
In the world as it is, where children aren’t allowed to speak, women aren’t allowed to be educated, and everything that is being done by adults, it’s not right to call people childish, Yousafzai said.
“The world has gone mad,” Yousafzai said, “I can’t say it is childish, it is adultish. Children are very innocent, they are very cute, they are very wise. They don’t know how to manipulate, or how to cheat or how to lie, how to kill each other.”
Modern education, Yousafzai said, which encourages critical thinking, can demolish fundamentalism and terrorism.
“It can fight it. I believe in it. That we provide our children with quality education, they will not pick up guns.”
Raunaq Malhotra, a graduate student in computer science, came to hear Yousafzai’s story. Malhotra is from India, which he compared to Pakistan.
“Coming from a similar patriarchal background, I can understand how difficult it is to stand up,” Malhotra said.