Winter 2016: “Every Girl’s Right” Powerful Voice Winner Edward Ramirez

Read Edward's essay, "Deprived of a Brain," about experiencing racism in school and his determination to continue learning despite the hurtful taunts and injustice.

Edward Ramirez, a freshman at KIPP Houston High School in Houston, Texas, read and responded to the online YES! Magazine article, “Standing With Malala: Meet the Teenagers Who Survived the Taliban and Kept Going to School.” From 2009-2012 the Taliban forcefully banned girls in the Swat Valley of Pakistan from going to school. In an interview with Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Riaz, the two friends of Malala who were also shot on the bus by the Taliban in 2012 tell the story of the traumatic experience that emboldened them to stand up for the right of every girl to an education.

Writing Prompt: Describe how you would feel if you were forcibly banned from going to school tomorrow—and indefinitely. What would you do?

Deprived of a Brain

We all need education, but some people just don’t see it. Some American students wake up every morning for school and say, “I don’t want to go to the ‘hell hole,’” but for girls in the Middle East, a normal day could turn into a hell hole from which they would not come out alive. If I were deprived of my education, I would fight with every bone and muscle in me to learn.

The YES! Magazine article, “Standing With Malala: Meet the Teenagers Who Survived the Taliban and Kept Going to School,” states “we hid our book bags underneath our clothes.” Some girls in America don’t care about books like Malala, but rather about the hoops they wear. Girls in the Middle East have to find loops around the Taliban, and their toes curl every time a school gets bombed, while girls in America only care about the loops and curls in their hair.

Some people in the world, like Malala, want so badly to learn that they would choose the possibility of a bullet to the head. They hope to one day achieve an education without struggle, where a struggle means running the risk of getting bombed. There, bullets and bombs are not good enough reasons to stop attending school. Western civilization, however, sees a cough as an excuse not to attend school. I am different, though. As a child of Latino parents who have high expectations of me, even a fever is not an acceptable excuse to miss school. No matter if an earthquake happened that day, I would be at school.

I was born in North Carolina and spent my childhood years there. Being a Hispanic kid in an all-white classroom in North Carolina was not fun. Teachers wouldn’t truly pay attention to me, but they would always make sure that the girl with the beautiful blonde hair understood. I was prevented from fully learning because I was busy standing up for myself after being called a “wetback.” When I would raise my hand to speak or answer a question, kids would yell, “Sit down! We don’t care. You’re not important.” I wanted to learn and succeed, but they didn’t seem to care about my learning or my success. That angered me— what would I do without an education? My dreams of sitting in the Oval Office or accepting an Oscar vanished in plain sight.

However, I still found a way to learn. When I would get home, I would ask my mother to take me to the library and read some of the books from class that had been taken from me and given to other students. I became independent and started to use the computers at the library to research information that I missed out on in class. This experience, as difficult as it was, allowed me to know that if my education were taken away from me tomorrow, in a year, or in twenty years, I would find a way to learn.

Having my right to learn taken from me is not acceptable. I would learn from books and find older people to teach me. I would then pass on this knowledge to younger kids. Sleeping outside of school and protesting are also means through which I would fight for my education.

Depriving someone of learning is like depriving them of water. Without water, we die, and the same goes for when we take away education. If we have no knowledge, we are stuck with a job that pays four dollars an hour, like street vendors and farm workers. Very few well-paying jobs are out there for people without an education. We wouldn’t make enough to pay rent, let alone eat, so we would die of starvation. Education helps us survive, but more than that, it allows us to live a full and successful life.

Don’t give up until the kids of your kids have access to an education. Fight and fight until taking a bullet to the head is not a consequence of learning or teaching. I won’t stay quiet; I will use my voice, speak up, and protest until every kid in the world has an opportunity to learn.

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