"Mohammed Naeem Khan ... and my father had studied for their bachelors and masters degrees in English together and were both passionate about education. They were also very frustrated as the school was very strict and unimaginative. Neither the students nor the teachers were supposed to have their own opinions, and the owners' control was so tight they even frowned on friendship between teachers.
These are the words of Malala Yousafzai, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 for bravely campaigning for the rights of girls in the Swat valley, northern Pakistan, to be allowed to attend school. (pp37-38 from 'I am Malala' by Malala Yousafzai, Wiedenfield and Nicholson 2013, subtitled 'The Girl who stood up for Education and was shot by the Taliban')
This is a salutary read about the challenges facing education in other parts of the world where freedom of thought is discouraged by the powerful. A group of 'talibs' or students, insist on a particular approach to learning, and a girl called 'Malala', a name literally meaning 'grief-stricken', is shot for speaking up for the right for girls to be educated.
What on earth has this got to do with us in the UK? Surely whatever centralised pressures we feel, there are differences of degree; only cynics would draw parallels. It is, however, interesting to learn that Malala was named after the Afghan heroine, Malalai, who inspired her fellow countrymen and women to defeat the British in the second Anglo-Afghan war of 1880.
Oppression and the restriction of freedoms for particular groups is always under threat in any society. Communities of free-thought, gathering evidence, listening to each other and being vigilant about the implications of new structures, all provide some protection against the excesses of power.
One of the many 'affordances' of writing is that it can bring about freedom from repression. You can find your own voice. Teachers are gathering together in writing groups to share their creative writing and support one another. And they are transforming their classrooms for the better: their children have greater ownership of the writing process, and, as a result, enjoy writing. The personal and professional affirmation this brings is a common feature of NWP groups. Join one now.
NWP Outreach director