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My daughter, me, and the Malala story

23/10/2012 2 comments

Last night, I told Han the story of Malala Yousafzai – the 14 years old Pakistani girl who still fights for recovery from a gun shot to the head by the Taliban. Han loves fairy tales, and she loves real-life stories too. At bedtime, she usually asks me to tell her one real-life story, then compares it to her own experience if she has one, or follows up by tens of whys and hows. Last night, she learned that Taliban is a group of bad men who punished Malala for wanting all girls to get a good education. As I finished the story, her first question was, “but why the bad men didn’t want girl education?.”

So I told her, in simple language, that it was because they wanted the girls to be ignorant so they could control them. Immediately Han said, “that’s bully, that’s not fair.” The story seemed to hit home for her, especially when she learned that Malala was on a school bus when she got shot (“was it a yellow bus too, Mama?”). She couldn’t relate to a faraway region called Swat Valley, but she could feel for a tragedy happening on a school bus. She could also put things in perspective when she learned about Malala hiding books in her clothes (“I don’t have to hide my books!”), and about schools getting closed down permanently (“but how can they learn when the school closes?”).

Earlier in the day, I almost erupted in fury when Han came home with her first math test. She got 3 out of 12 questions wrong. I could tell, as usual, she didn’t pay adequate attention to the test – counting 3 plus 5 as 9. She saw the look on my face and started crying – “but I didn’t mean to (do it wrong), I didn’t even know they were wrong, Ms. M didn’t show us the answer.” Right then, it hit me. At school, a six-year-old doesn’t get to realize she’s wrong – after a math practice, the teacher would show the right answers, and the kids would check to see if their answers are correct, if not, they erase the wrong ones and put in the right. “Wrong” becomes “a mistake,” something easily fixed by an eraser. I have a big problem with that, just as I had a big problem a while ago with her coming home with the just-right books that she read fluently simply because she quickly memorized every single word.

But I also realized it was not her fault after all. The significance of a right (math) answer has never been communicated to her. The difference between the confidence of reading a memorized book and that of reading any (new) book has also never been taught to her. As a six years old having it nice and easy, Han never had a chance to realize the real challenges of learning. She doesn’t get to appreciate the sweats and tears, and thus doesn’t have the joy of overcoming them.

So, instead of nagging her for the 3 wrong math answers, I decided to tell her the Malala story. Its immediate implication might be a far cry from counting or reading right. She might not be able to grasp the gravity of the story. But I hoped as she realizes she’s fortunate enough to be able to do freely the things million others can only wish to do, she would at least take her learning a little more seriously. As seriously as a six years old could get.

Last night, when I told her to pay more attention to the things she learns knowing that she’s fortunate enough to be able to learn them, Han said, “today we learn substraction in school, isn’t that cool?”

Categories: English, Inner Circle, Thoughts

2010 in review

Between the ups and the downs, the ins and the outs, the ons and the offs, there is still an oasis in this world for me to retreat. For that, I’m thankful.

Happy New Year 2011.

Categories: Inner Circle, Thoughts

Fathers

19/06/2009 4 comments

I’ve been lucky enough to be around good fathers – those who showed me that if I had an offspring, he would be safe in his father’s arms.

When I was old enough to face the world on my own, I learned that my Dad talked about me to all who cared to chat with him. His students told me things about myself that I didn’t even remember. A friend of mine who’s a student of Dad once told me about a quarrel I had had with Dad that I completely forgot. Dad said to him, the ‘debate’ made him realize that I was an individual, that I had my right to disagree with him and make my case, and that since then he accepted the fact that I was now a grown-up. Dad never told me what he thought. Read more…

Categories: Inner Circle
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