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Prix Nobel de la Paix pour Malala Yousafzai – Un désastre pour le droit à l'éducation

Otto Kolbl

Obviously, Malala has shown great courage in her fight for the right of girls to get the same education as boys, and her efforts should get every support we can provide. However, awarding her the Nobel Peace Prize sends the wrong signals and will do nothing to improve the situation on the ground, quite on the contrary.

Malala Yousafzai at Girl Summit 2014-croppedMalala Yousafzai at Girl Summit 2014, photo Russell Watkins/Department for International Development, CC-BY 2.0 at Wikimedia

The first problem is that it will certainly incite many parents in poor countries to push their children to become militants for a wide range of causes. Almost half a million Euros (this is what Malala gets together with her Nobel Peace Prize) is quite a strong incentive. Adults should have the courage to fight for their ideals themselves, instead of leaving this task to their underage children.

The even bigger problem is that it sends the wrong signals with regards to the right to education. The Taliban are not the main obstacle to education in Pakistan; they are rather the beneficiaries of the disastrous policies of the Pakistani government in this field. Here is the youth literacy rate (age 15 to 24) for a few selected countries of the region, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics:

Country (year) Youth literacy rate
Pakistan (2011) 70.8%
India (2006) 81.1%
Myanmar (2000) 94.6%
Thailand (2010) 96.6%
Philippines (2008) 97.7%
Iran (2012) 98.0%
Sri Lanka (2010) 98.2%
Indonesia (2011) 98.8%
China (2010) 99.6%

In relation to its level of development, Pakistan performs among the worst countries in the world with regards to education. The Taliban recruit many militants by providing free education in the religious Madrasa schools for boys who were let down by the public school system. If the Pakistani government cared about the right to education and other similar rights, the Taliban would probably not even exist.

Western politicians, academics and the media don't care either. Have you ever heard of any head of state who, when travelling to Pakistan, promises to raise the question of the right to education? Here is what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says about this topic:

Article 26.
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

However, when young people in the whole world demonstrate for their right to equal access to higher education, the media will never concede that it is part of human rights. When in a county, the illiteracy rate is much higher than in other comparable countries, violating one of the basic rights of millions of people and bringing instability not only to the country, but to the whole region, nobody will criticize the government, not even to speak of holding it accountable.

On the other hand, when a government limits the freedom of the press or the freedom of expression of the academic community, the result will be a massive outcry. The fact is that our media and academics defend mainly their own rights and privileges, shamelessly amputating the rest of the human rights.

Malala's courage and the terrible things which happened to her could have been an occasion of reflecting about education in Pakistan and all around the world and about human rights in general. It is quite appalling that our media and the Noble Prize Committee have transformed these events into a publicity stunt aiming at diverting attention away from the right to education and from the economic and social rights in general.

The Pakistani Prime Minister shows that he understands this only too well when he congratulates Malala to her Nobel Peace Prize and calls her the "pride" of the nation. The only ones she makes really proud are the totally corrupt Pakistani politicians who get the confirmation from the whole world that it's not them who violate the right to education of the Pakistanis on a massive scale, but the Taliban.