Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2012, she was shot in the head by the Taliban for the ‘crime’ of going to school. Girls were prohibited by the Taliban from going to school in the Swat Valley, north-east Pakistan where she lived. Miraculously, Malala survived. She was flown to the United Kingdom, where she now lives and today she is studying at the world famous University of Oxford. In 2013, she founded the Malala Fund with her father – Ziauddin Yousafzai – to champion every girl’s right to 12 years of quality education. She is helping to change the world. Born on 12th July 1997, on Malala Day 2018 she turned 21-years-old.
But what has Malala got to do with Low-Cost/Affordable Private Education.
Curiously, however, whenever her work is discussed an important detail is omitted. Summarising her 16th birthday talk to the UN, for instance, the BBC highlighted “her campaign to ensure free, compulsory education for every child”. ‘Free’ and ‘compulsory’ are words associated with government schooling.
SEED’s standpoint is that in achieving the Education for All (EFA) agenda, there is a need to support both public schools and low-cost/affordable private schools. We need to fight for an improvement in our public education systems but in the meantime the low-cost/affordable private schools have filled the gap. In order not to leave our children stranded without an education, we need to harness the benefits of both public schools and low-cost/affordable private schools.
Learn more about SEED’s advocacy work.
The Reality: Malala Attended A Low-Cost Private School Owned By Her Father!!
But it wasn’t to government schooling that Malala’s family turned for an education. Malala herself attended a low-cost private school in Pakistan. Her father, dissatisfied by the government-run schools available, invested all of his savings in setting up a private school in Minorga with fees in the same bracket as low-cost private schools. It was whilst she was on her way to this school that Malala was famously shot by the Taliban.
According to Prof. James Tooley, this reality gets hidden in all reports. The global teachers’ union, Education International, described her father as ‘headmaster’, while Time described him as ‘school administrator’. Neither title captures the reality: her father was in fact an educational entrepreneur. Malala’s father rejected bribes to have his school registered by the government. Instead, he joined an association of private schools before quickly rising to become its President. Under his leadership, the association expanded to include over 400 low-cost private schools. Malala’s story is far from unusual. It highlights the presence of a global grassroots’ movement of which her father is just one player.
What is the quality of these schools? More recent research from Tooley and Dixon tested around 40,000 children from both government and private schools in seven sub-Saharan African countries revealed that facilities, teaching activity, student outcomes, school accountability, and parental satisfaction are all significantly higher in low-cost private schools than in government-run schools. In every major category, the private institutions are leading the way.
What’s true? Those running low-cost private schools around the world, in places sometimes as difficult as the Swat Valley, against the odds, with governments, international agencies and even citizens often unsympathetic, have Malala and her father as champions. But for those who proclaim her as only fighting for the right to public education. Nothing in her and her family’s actions, her past or present life story, suggests that she is. She is fighting for much more.