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Omar Soto

Critical Pedagogy 2
Dr. Abrahams
October 5th, 2014
I Am Malala
In 1943 Abraham Maslow wrote A Theory of Human Motivation, a psychological
theory that uses a pyramid to map out the steps necessary for a human to achieve the state of
self-actualization. This is the state in which people transcend primal nature and attain morality,
creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, and acceptance of facts. In the world
of education, we associate the term self-actualization with the process of learning. According to
Maslow, in order for one to truly reach the pinnacle of his hierarchy of needs, one must first
progress through the initial four stages of the hierarchy. These four stages are physiological,
safety, love/belonging, and esteem, and they each represent needs that need to be fulfilled before
moving on to the next stage. To most people in first world countries, these needs are quite easily
satisfied which makes self-actualization a reasonably easy state to reach, however in Malala
Yousafazais home country of Pakistan, meeting these needs can prove to be a hard earned
privilege rather than a right. In Malalas prologue, she mentions how things as seemingly simple
as water running from every tap, hot or cold as you wish and ovens to cook on are fine
luxuries that are not attainable to the majority of people in Pakistan (Youzafazai, 8). In her
province of Swat and all around Pakistan, people struggle direly just to meet the most basic of
needs described in Maslows hierarchy, so for most of them, education is seen as an utter waste
of time. For them, working laboriously long days for petty wages is the only way to survive.

Fortunately, Malalas father, Ziauddin, valued education, and he instilled in Malala values similar
to those of Paulo Freire, author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Freire states that, ideally
education should be the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal
critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their
world (Freire, 34.) Ziauddin believed that lack of education was the root of all Pakistans
problems, but unfortunately, the society where Malala was raised is acts as an antagonist to
education, especially when it comes to women (Youzafazi 26).
At the bottom of the hierarchical structure of needs is the physiological stage which includes
basic necessities for survival such as food, water, and sleep. This stage is the most important
priority for human existence and is also the first step in attaining self-actualization, but in Swat,
Malalas family had to work very hard in order to progress past this stage. Very often in the book,
it is mentioned that Ziauddin hardly had money to pay for food for himself and his family so
hunger became an enemy that stood right around the corner. In fact, when Ziauddin was growing
up, he was offered a tuition free spot in Jehanzeb College, which is the best university in Swat,
but because of living expenses, he had to practically beg his friends and family for support. Even
so, Malalas family was fortunate compared to some of the poorest members of Swat, the Gujars
and Kohistanis, who were described as dirty, black and stupid (Youzafazi 27.) These people,
mostly children, rummage through garbage all over the valley of Swat in order to find anything
remotely valuable in order to sell it for food. Even if these kids wanted an education, they would
not be able to attend school because most of them are breadwinners so if they went to school,
even for free, [their] whole family would go hungry (Youzafazi 45.)

The second stage in the hierarchy is the stage of safety, which includes the need for
security of body, of resources, of family, and health. Progressing past this stage was also very

difficult for Malala. In 2007, a radical Islamic group of terrorists known as the Taliban took over
Swat and began bombing schools and killing innocent people by the hundreds simply because
they did not follow the Talibans views. Even before the Talibans arrival, Swat was victim to
numerous drone strikes from the US, and the denizens of Swat were brutally punished if they
deviated even slightly from the very harsh and rigid societal code set up by the hegemonic
government. This environment weighs heavily on ones perception of safety, and it interferes
with the advancement to the later stages of the hierarchy. Malala and most of the people in Swat
lived in an almost constant fear since they were surrounded by the boom of cannons and
machine guns from the hills (Youzafazi 68.) In fact, the Taliban became such an imposing threat
to peoples safety that the people of Swat fled the province and took part in a massive exodus,
unparalleled to anything in Pakistans history. This exodus resonated with my own experiences
growing up in Mexico. When I was 7 years old, organized crime in Mexico skyrocketed to
unprecedented levels. Some of the people I grew up with and went to school with were killed in
terror shootings, and the streets I used to play in were now under the control of highly organized
criminal syndicates like Los Zetas and the Jurez Cartel. My father, a politician who owned
various businesses in Jurez, was threatened at gunpoint multiple times by extortionists who took
a sizeable amount of his income, and he was considered lucky to simply have been threatened.
My mother, who valued me and brothers safety and education, saw no choice but to leave my
hometown of Jurez, which between the years of 2007 and 2011 had been
the setting for 11,000 murders and was placed 1st on Business Insiders the list of Most Violent
Cities in the world. My mother made many sacrifices, leaving friends and family behind in
order to raise two children as a single mother, and she worked so hard that me and my brother
were never without food and commodities, and we were able to attain an education. Malalas

parents had to undergo many of the same sacrifices my family did, except they were not
fortunate enough to have a place like the United States to flee to.
Finally, the last two stages before reaching self-actualization are Esteem and
Love/Belonging. These stages involve confidence, achievement, and respect for and by others, as
well as friendship and family. Malala did not struggle as much with the Love/Belonging stage as
much since she always had family and guests at her house, but her family did move quite a bit,
so it was difficult at times for her to keep up with her friends. One of the final and most imposing
roadblocks to her education and the education of many women in Swat was the Esteem stage.
Since this stage revolved around self-image, it is easy for a woman to become discouraged from
getting an education since Pakistan is a land where rifles are fired in celebration of a son, while
daughters are hidden away behind a curtain, their role in life simply to prepare food and give
birth to children (Youzafazi, 13.) Malala was lucky that her father valued education and was not
as closed minded as most of the people in Swat. Other women were discouraged from even
setting foot outside of their homes. From the perspective of people raised in 1st world countries it
is strange and out-of-this-world to think that such harsh restrictions are placed on women in
Pakistan, however our cultural capital is different from theirs. The men of Pakistan manipulated
the words of The Quran, the holy text of Islam, to oppress women and take away any shred of
power from them. Since women had their education stripped from them, they became powerless
to do change this practice and so the hegemonic rule against them continued. They were not
allowed the right to vote and their role in life was reduced to birther and housekeeper. This is the
system of oppression that Malala had to struggle against in order to attain her education. She had
to attend school with caution and mentioned that she was scared that if the Taliban caught [her]
going to school, they would throw acid in [her] face as they had done to the girls in Afghanistan

(Youzafazi 82.) As Paulo Freire mentioned in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, the government of
Pakistan and the Taliban assumed the position of leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist
on imposing their decisions and who do not organize the people-they manipulate them (178.)
Despite all of these obstacles, Malala worked excruciatingly hard and tackled obstacles
along every step of the hierarchy of needs in order to become educated. Even though she was
shot by the Taliban and her life was threatened numerous times she persisted in her fight for
womens rights and she continues to work tirelessly to show the world that Education is a right
that is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human (83.) Her inspiring story led me to the
conclusion that, as a Future educator, I should take into account the needs of every individual
student. They all will come into my classroom with their own individual battles and struggles
just as Malala, Me, and countless others have, and I should make sure their learning environment
leads them on the path to empowerment so that they can enact the change they want to see in
their own lives.

Works Cited

Yousafzai, Malala,Lamb, Christina,I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And
Was Shot By The Taliban. : . Print.

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy Of The Oppressed. New York : Continuum, 2000. Print.

Maslow, Abraham. A Theory of Human Motivation. Web.