“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” Nelson Mandela

By Stephanie Renaut, of Senlis, France. Stephanie, 16, is a high school student at the Lycée St Vincent, Senlis, France. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below. *Winner of the NUHA Youth Blogging Prize 2011*

To quote Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “Education is the knowledge and development resulting from an educational process.” It also prepares one for the ability of reasoning and judging, readying one to face the “world”. It’s the foundation of developing one’s mind and intellectual capability, without it, it is difficult to advance in life not only at a personal level, but also on a more global scale.

Education begins at home with parents sharing their knowledge, offering guidance along life’s little bumps and potholes all the while providing a lot of encouragement. These things all make up for an enriching environment but more formal instruction is acquired while going to school. When children learn to read and write, they gain the most basic and important requirements one needs in life. Youngsters that build on these basic skills can later learn to form their opinion concerning different issues, important and urgent to the twenty-first century, thus discovering ways in which they can help their own countries’ advancement.

Education is a vital weapon, a shield against the world by way of expressing freely one’s ideas. Every country recognises that. But why are there more than 120 million children that don’t go to school? Because the lack of education is the only way for some countries to control or to manipulate their population. Too many countries don’t invest in schools, teachers, libraries… How are people suppose to know what school is or how very important it is if they have never been to one? They will never see what is outside their own country, much less their own, or know what it is like to live beyond the boundaries of ignorance. They are stuck in a prison cell, looking up for guidance, waiting to be told what to do, but never daring for fear of doing wrong.

I once read the wonderful true story of Ma Yan, a girl living in the northern part of China. She is taken out of school because her parents can’t afford to pay for it anymore. Devastated, she seeks refuge in her diaries and writes about her everyday life and her battle to get an education despite extreme poverty. When her mother meets some French journalists, she gives them the diaries. Not long after, they are transformed into a book, showing the world how important education is to some children, how some crave to go to school and would give their life just to be able to learn. By knowing how to write, Ma Yan sent a message to the world. And that message, even if little, made a change.

In a world such as ours, a college education is ever more important today. Having an education, and a good one, assures one to succeed in life, to have a place in society and earn its respect. Brainpower or intellectual capacity are becoming more and more primordial and are often required even for the smallest jobs. Beginning with reading and writing. In today’s society, a human being will struggle without an education, even if to fulfill daily tasks. People should put their knowledge to good use, find ways to solve threatening problems like global warming, wars and extreme poverty.

Of course, not everyone agrees on that point and that is why it is impossible to find solutions to each one of these burning issues. Some very smart people use their intellect to gain more power over others, working for their own sake. Ever since the beginning of time, when man started thinking, there has been unfairness and cruelty: Hitler, Mao Zedong, Saddam Hussein, and today Kim Jong Il, Omar Al-Bashir, Robert Mugabe were and are very good examples of men that have used their education to torture and destroy people. Men from all over the planet have changed the world, only some in the most atrocious and inhuman ways. But to denounce and not praise would be unfair. Heroes have walked amongst us, spreading peace and justice, like Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Mohandas Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.

Having access to an education is vital to go out and act, act towards an immoral world and try to change it; money isn’t all it takes. Slowly, step by step, people like Ma Yan will show the world how necessary education is, that without it, one can’t move on, the world cannot advance equally. That is exactly what Nelson Mandela meant: education is the key to knock down dictators and break free, to win the struggle against unfairness and most importantly, to help those who are in need.


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