“School, right from the beginning, is an experience of life for children..." | Portsmouth High School

“School, right from the beginning, is an experience of life for children…”

Pakistani activist and Nobel laureate, Malala Yousafzai gave a speech last week on the importance of children’s education in Denver, Colorado as part of her tour of the USA.

Malala at 17 years old is the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and during her visit she reiterated her ‘books, not bullets’ mantra which was particularly poignant after the tragedy in Tunisia this weekend.

She told the delegates: “School, right from the beginning, is an experience of life for children. It allows you to discover your personality, to discover your full potential, to discover your identity.”

I was fortunate enough to meet Malala last November at the Girls’ School Association conference.  She attends a member school – Edgbaston High in Birmingham.  She spoke without notes and held the whole room of a tricky lot of Head Teachers with ease. She is a truly remarkable young woman. Our Head Girl, Ellie was selected to be one of the few girls to be included in the audience with Malala. I know Ellie found Malala quite literally awesome too. Malala thanked her father for not clipping her wings and letting her fly. She talked of the moment she was shot by a masked Taliban gunman and the terror she experienced as a young woman prepared to speak out in support of education for girls. She said “One was to remain silent and wait to be killed, or speak up and be killed,” adding that she felt she might as well get her message out if her life was at stake anyway.

Malala speaks wise words when she says that school is a place of discovery and she is not just talking about learning facts in a classroom.  She is referring to all those opportunities to take part in the wider life of the school which leads children to discover talents they didn’t know they had or to discover activities they didn’t know they enjoyed. I am confident that by the time the girls leave PHS they have a good idea of their own identity and personality mixed with an understanding of their strengths. They are fortunate to have the freedom to be educated and educated well – I am sure all of them are appreciative of the chances that they get at PHS to learn, encounter and experience.