Youth ambassadors are ‘inspiration to all who feel helpless’

Keegan and Elisa from the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Lab at John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring, Md., recently interviewed Khainat and Shazia, two girls who were with Pakistani education advocate Malala Yousafzai when the Taliban attacked their school bus in 2012 and shot her in the head. 

Since then, both girls have been completing their education in safety in the U.K. and working as Global Youth Ambassadors for A World at School.

You can read Keegan’s insightful reflection on the experience below.

From left to right: Kainat, Shazia, Keegan and Elisa

By Keegan, John F. Kennedy High School, Silver Spring, Md.

It is hard to put into words what I experienced when we attended the conference for the Global Youth Ambassadors for A World at School. This was a side conference of the spring meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. I was really not sure what to expect.

We got to the NYU building in downtown Washington, D.C., for the A World at School kick-off and I could see that this was serious business. There were representatives there from many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as I looked through the name cards.  I recognized many of them, from Save the Children and UNICEF to Sesame Street. Everyone was there for a big global initiative on education and I later learned they want to raise three billion dollars.

As everyone moved into the auditorium to start off the conference, I noticed two saris that I really admired. That’s when I realized that the saris were worn by the girls I had read about previously. These were the girls that were in the bus with Malala the day they were targeted by the Taliban, Kainat Riaz and Shazia Ramzan. They were literally 10 feet away from me and my schoolmate. We were going to get to talk to them later and we were nervous.

As each speaker stood up to highlight key points about the lack of education around the world, I was completely intrigued by the issue, having not really thought about it prior to the conference.

The numbers were staggering – 57 million kids out of school? Here I had been longing for summer break just to get out of the classroom. I realized that the education I had taken for granted was this beacon of hope for other children who were deprived of it in other parts of the world.

Each Global Ambassador’s story was different but they came together because of one goal: education. The bottom line for me was than an education was not anyone’s to take away in the first place.

As I tried to hold back the tears, I came to understand that this idleness in me, my peers and everyone else capable of changing these circumstances had to be rechanneled for those who can not speak up for themselves. Education is a right, no matter the race, gender, nationality or social class of the person.

When the time came for my classmate and me to finally interview Shazia and Kainat, I felt the urge to embrace them, but restrained myself. I realized that I did not know whether it was too forward in their culture. Instead, I looked them in the eyes and told them that they were making history whether they knew it or not. Their actions are an inspiration to all who feel helpless.

I left that day knowing that this goal of giving education meant giving power to those who thought they could never have it.