It’s strange to think that more than a 100 years later, Josephine Butler’s words remain true. Education is still feared by those who wish to oppress.
In the last few years we have seen those who are advocates of education be targeted. Malala Yousafzai, a teenage girl was shot by the Taliban for advocating education for girls. Boko Haram kidnapped girls who went to school in Nigeria. And on Friday another group from Somalia targeted a university in Kenya.
Why do we fear education?
Because with education, comes enlightenment. And with knowledge, we discover our power.
I just finished reading the first in a young adult fiction series written by Children’s Laureate, Malorie Blackman. It’s called Noughts and Crosses. In it, blacks are powerful, whites are not. In it, a white ‘nought’ goes to a ‘cross’ school. He challenges the teachers for not teaching about the achievements of Noughts. He is told they’ve not done anything worthy of being in a textbook.
There are plenty of achievements that have been ‘textbook’ worthy by people who are not white men. But they are not common knowledge – because they don’t appear in our plaques, statues, museums, media or school curriculum.
Over the last months, I’ve discovered more and more that has caused me to question things I’ve been taught that are ‘common knowledge’, and felt sick seeing the names of streets or particular statues around my home city.
I am grateful for Josephine Butler, Hannah More, Eliza Wigham, Elizabeth Pease, Sophia Jex-Blake, Elsie Inglis, Emmeline Pankhurst and many others who came before me and made it possible for me to live in a world where I got to go to school and university…and graduate from said university. They allowed me to vote in elections of leaders of the country of my birth. I’m grateful for Frederick Douglas, Nelson Mandela, Stephen Biko and many others who made it possible for me to have a friendship with my friends who do not share my skin tone.
And yet, still, we see that there are structures in our world which are trying to prevent so many of us from being educated, from learning, from equality.