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One of the most powerful advocates for children's education is a Pakistani girl who nearly died
at the hands of the Taliban, simply because she insisted on going to school. And this
week, Malala Yousafzai turned her attention to the plight of children forced to leave
school as they fled the war in Syria.
We reached her at the largest refugee camp in Jordan, along the border with Syria, where
more than 100,000 Syrians are now crowded together. Malala and the head of her Malala
Fund, Shiza Shahid, were there to raise money to pay for schools and teachers at Zaatari
camp.
When they joined us via Skype, Malala told of seeing families arriving with almost nothing.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: When I came here, and when I went to the Jordanian-Syrian border, and
when I saw children, they had no shoes and they were wearing dirty clothes and they had
a long walk in the desert for, like, 10 and 15 hours. I just felt something in my heart
that what is their sin, what have they done that they have to migrate, why are these innocent
children suffering from such hard situation, why are they deprived of school, why are they
deprived of peaceful environment?
MONTAGNE: Will, I'd like to put to Shiza Shahid one question: you've also been meeting these
children. Is there a story that struck you as suggestive of what many of them are going
through?
SHIZA SHAHID: I'll tell you a story. Yesterday, we were at the Syrian-Jordanian border where
refugees cross over. And you don't realize what that means 'til you see it. They literally
walk across miles of barren desert with nothing in their hand, half of their family left behind
in Syria, fighting or dead. And so as I watched that, I approached this boy - he was about
three years old and had the most beautiful green eyes and I started to play with him.
And his mother turned to me apologetically and said I bathed him before he left but the
desert was very dusty. And in those words, I realized how deeply she was clinging on
to, not just hope, but her dignity as a human being, having left everything behind. She
wanted me to know that her child wasn't dirty because she didn't know how to keep him clean,
though, because the desert was dusty. And that was incredibly moving to me. Giving these
people an education will give them back that dignity.
MONTAGNE: Are there schools in the camp at all, Jordan's largest camp?
SHAHID: Yes, there are three schools and there's about 50,000 children here.
MONTAGNE: Three schools serving 50,000 children.
SHAHID: Yeah.
YOUSAFZAI: Only three schools. And what happens, I saw so many boys and they were doing some
child labor. They were collecting some stones. The children are contributing to their family
through child labor. They have to work, they have to earn something for their family, for
their food, for their basic needs, such as water.
SHAHID: Renee, if I may pitch in, you know, there's a very high concentration of female-led
households amongst the Syrian refugees because so many of the men are at war or have been
killed in the fighting. And so a lot of children are having to bear the burdens that their
fathers used to. And in addition they've had to leave behind all their possessions, which
is increasing the incidences of child labor, which Malala refers to.
MONTAGNE: I'm wondering, in the middle of this war - and it's a very vicious war - these
kids who are among the refugees, they need shelter, they need food, but tell us how important
is it for a child to have a school to go to?
YOUSAFZAI: A child learns every day in something new. But if he is living in an environment
where he sees violence, where he sees bad people, it has a very bad influence on their
child. But if he's in a different environment, in a healthy environment, in an environment
where he can learn, he's going to school, he has teachers, he is learning how to work
in groups and how to work in collaboration with each other, so then it has a good impact
on the child's future.
MONTAGNE: Malala, do these children know you when they meet you? Do they know your story?
YOUSAFZAI: I think most of these children does not know who I am, but they know me as
Malala, a girl, their friend. They do not know me as, like, a celebrity, kind of god,
but they just know me from their heart. And they have been my friend. And they're so nice
to me. They love me and I like that. They know me as Malala, as a girl.
MONTAGNE: Well, Shiza Shahid and Malala Yousafzai, thank you both, very much, for joining us.
SHAHID: Thank you so much, Renee.
YOUSAFZAI: Thank you.
MONTAGNE: They spoke to us from the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan across the border from
Syria.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.
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Malala Fund Tries To Help Educate Child Refugees From Syria

2396 Folder Collection
kevin published on October 12, 2014    Lavender translated    林筠 reviewed
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