Playlist TEDx

When education is not a given: 10 inspiring talks

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

ShabanaBasijRasikhFrom age 6 through age 11, Shabana Basij-Rasikh risked her life to go to school. The Taliban had banned girls in Afghanistan from studying at universities and other educational institutions and, thus, Basij-Rasikh dressed as a boy, posing as an escort for her older sister. Together, the two would place their books in grocery bags and sneak off to a secret school.

Shabana Basij-Rasikh: Dare to educate Afghan girlsShabana Basij-Rasikh: Dare to educate Afghan girls

“Each day, we took a different route so that no one would suspect where we were going,” says Basij-Rasikh in this powerful talk. “The school was in a house, more than 100 of us packed into one living room … We all knew we were risking our lives — the students, the parents, the teachers.”

When the Taliban fell in 2001, Basij-Rasikh’s father was thrilled that his daughters would be able to return to a traditional school. Still, says Basij-Rasikh, her family’s commitment to education for its daughters was not the norm. In Afghanistan, only 6 percent of women 25 or older received any formal education.

“I was very lucky to grow up in a family where education was prized and daughters were treasured,” says Basij-Rasikh, a recent graduate of Middlebury College in the United States. “During the Taliban years, I remember there were times I would get so frustrated by our life and always being scared. I would want to quit. But my father would say, ‘Listen, my daughter. You can lose everything you own in your life. Your money can be stolen. You can be forced to leave your home in a war. The one thing that will always remain with you is what is up here. If we have to sell our blood to pay your school fees, we will.’”

After college, Basij-Rasikh returned home and co-founded SOLA, the School of Leadership Afghanistan, the first boarding school for girls in Afghanistan. And yet sadly, getting an education is still a risk in the country. To hear a shocking story of one of Basij-Rasikh’s students whose family was targeted by terrorists — simply for sending their daughter to SOLA — watch this talk.

Here, more talks from people who went to great lengths to get, or give, an education.

Kakenya Ntaiya: A girl who demanded schoolKakenya Ntaiya: A girl who demanded schoolKakenya Ntaiya: The first school for Maasai girls
For Maasai girls, childhood is focused on preparing them for marriage, which will happen for many as early as age 12 or 13. With great reverence for her culture, Kakenya Ntaiya shares how she agreed to participate in a genital mutilation ceremony … in exchange for permission to continue her education. In this talk from TEDxMidAtlantic, she reveals why it was so important to her to go to college, become a teacher and start the first all-girls school in her village — all with the support of her elders.
Shukla Bose: Teaching one child at a timeShukla Bose: Teaching one child at a timeShukla Bose on educating poor children
Activist Shukla Bose admits that she and her compatriates with the Parikrma Humanity Foundation were mind-boggled when they first set out to educate the children of India’s slums — 200 million of whom should be in school but simply aren’t. In this talk from TEDIndia 2009, Bose explains how they put the statistics out of mind and went about their mission in the only way they could — by going one child at a time.
Sheryl WuDunn: Our century's greatest injusticeSheryl WuDunn: Our century's greatest injustice
Sheryl WuDunn: Our century’s greatest injustice
At TEDGlobal 2010, journalist Sheryl WuDunn takes us to rural China — where a star pupil was pulled out of school because her family couldn’t justify paying the $13 annual fee when she’d be working a rice paddy for the rest of her life. WuDunn shows how the donations for the education of this one student changed not only her life but her family’s and her entire village’s. A stirring talk about how education for the world’s women can lead to all of our advancement.
Freeman Hrabowski: 4 pillars of college success in scienceFreeman Hrabowski: 4 pillars of college success in scienceFreeman Hrabowski: 4 pillars of college success in science
When he was 12 years old, Freeman Hrabowski begged his parents to let him march with Martin Luther King to demand an equal education to the white students in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. Today, he’s president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), where he works to create an environment that helps under-represented students — specifically African-American, Latino and low-income learners — get degrees in math and science. In this talk from TED2013, he shares his school’s approach.
Sugata Mitra: Kids can teach themselvesSugata Mitra: Kids can teach themselvesSugata Mitra shares how kids teach themselves
Why should educational technology be focused in schools that already have good teachers and resources? In this talk from LIFT 2007, Sugata Mitra shares why it is important to focus technology in schools in rural areas, slums and shanty towns — because that’s where it can have the most impact. Here, Mitra narrates his Hole in the Wall experiment in New Delhi in 1999, where a computer was embedded into a wall, and local children flocked to it — learning and teaching each other.
Neil Turok: My wish: Find the next Einstein in AfricaNeil Turok: My wish: Find the next Einstein in AfricaNeil Turok makes his TED Prize wish
Neil Turok grew up in South Africa, where his parents were imprisoned for resisting racism. He spent his formative years as a refugee in Kenya and Tanzania. As Turok accepted the TED Prize in 2008, he shared the story of how he became interested in theoretical physics. The keys: being inspired by the wisdom of village children around him, many of whom didn’t have a formal education, and by a school teacher who posed the question: “What banged during the Big Bang?”
Charles Leadbeater: Education innovation in the slumsCharles Leadbeater: Education innovation in the slumsCharles Leadbeater on education innovation in the slums
In the favelas of Rio or the slums of Kibera, traditional schools simply will not work because they depend on professionals and high-cost infrastructure — not to mention that their curriculums do not connect to the lives of students. At the TEDSalon London 2010, Charles Leadbeater looks at different approaches — like putting computers in community centers and serving up lessons through mobile phones. It’s education plus technology that is the key, Leadbeater shows.
Leymah Gbowee: Unlock the intelligence, passion, greatness of girlsLeymah Gbowee: Unlock the intelligence, passion, greatness of girlsLeymah Gbowee: Unlock the intelligence, passion, greatness of girls
Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee is haunted by the untapped potential of the girls she’s met on her travels across Liberia. In this talk, she tells some of these girls’ stories and calls on us all to foster the educational growth of girls — and to encourage the great inventions, innovations and breakthroughs they may be able to fuel if nurtured.