Tuesday, 27 May 2014


                                                                                                                                                             THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION

I have an admission to make before we start. I absolutely hated school (despite that I didn't bunk off once which I think is quite impressive). My educational experience was awful. I was bullied, I had useless unsupportive teachers and worse, unsupportive parents. So yeah, my school years were the worst of my life.

You'd have thought that would have put me off education forever. but it hasn't. It has only made me realise how important education is. And a few years ago I took a course in music at the University of Sheffield. I made some wonderful friends, had an inspiring lecturer, and my experience couldn't have been more different. It was wonderful. So, thanks Adam White (BMus), if you read this!

So do I believe in a good education? Of course I do. Wholeheartedly.

What I can't understand is why some fundamentalists in the Middle East do not.

They seem to have this bigoted  - not to mention sexist - view that the only thing women are good for are keeping home, doing chores and having kids (or as my mum so subtly puts it: "Being head cook and bottle-washer").

Now I'm not saying men in the West do not have these attitudes. They do. But when innocent women start dying for this principle then it becomes totally unacceptable.

First there is the appalling case of  Malala Yousafzai. She was brutally and cruelly shot by the Taliban simply because she wanted to go to school with her friends and learn like any other teenager. Thankfully, she recovered from this horrific incident and has continued to speak up for woman going to school. Though it is unlikely she will ever be able to return to her home country of Pakistan.

Then there is the recent frightening incident of over two hundred Nigerian girls who were abducted from a school in the village of Chibok by a terrorist group called Boko Haram.

The literal meaning of Boko Haram is 'Fake Education is a sin'. Boko being an abbreviation of  'Llimin Boko', meaning Fake Education.

Boko Haram - as their name suggests - believe that the Western-style education of woman (of any age) is unacceptable.

Sadly most these girls are still missing, The Nigerian military has said they know their whereabouts, but refuse to make it public. This could be for several reasons: They have no idea where they are and are blatantly lying, or they DO know, and are terrified of retaliation from Boko Haram, either towards them or the girls. In fact President Goodluck Jonathan refuses to make any move to help the girls whatsoever. He thought the best way of helping them was to take a trip to France.

My question here is: why should these girls not have an education? Do they not have the right to learn and be valuable and productive members of the society they live in, like their male counterparts? Yes, of course they do, and they should.

So, how do we change this horrible sexist attitude? It will take a lot of time and a lot of persistence. But there is hope.

As long as women like Malala stand up and say "We have rights", then eventually things will be different.

I have realised (a little late in life perhaps) that I love journalism and dream of pursuing a career in it.

These women deserve to have the chance to chase their dreams too, whatever they may be. I wish them all the very best of luck.

Saturday, 24 May 2014



                                                    THE FIGHT FOR FOUR MEN

Let me ask you a question. What does Freedom mean to you? Some may say it's being able to go for a ride, or a walk. Some may describe it as being alone with their own thoughts, shutting the rest of the world out. However you interpret freedom is fine. For myself it's being able to have my own opinions and to be able to share those opinions even if others may disagree with them.

For four good men, the only freedom they needed was to tell the truth to - and about - the world, via their journalism.

Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy, and Baher Mohamed were arrested in Egypt in December 2013. Their colleague - Abdallah el-Shamy - was already in jail having been arrested in August of the same year. 

They were charged with spreading false news, bringing Egypt into disrepute (yes, really!), and having ties with (and providing a platform for) the Muslim Brotherhood, who Egypt class as terrorists. 

Al Jazeera's stand is "we reject all charges and continue to campaign for their immediate release". 

it is the consensus they are innocent of all charges. So the reason they are in jail is somewhat of a mystery. Not only to their colleagues and journalism as a whole, but to people who have friends who are journalists (myself included) and anyone who believes in the importance of journalism, free speech, and a sense of justice.

Justice sounds (and is) a strong word. But in this case it's definition is simple because it translates to something simple but just as powerful  - #FREEAJSTAFF

This hashtag has been appearing on Al Jazeera and Twitter every hour of every day since these men were jailed. There was also a global day of action for the men who were wrongfully arrested just for doing their job. The taped mouth and hashtag picture has become a symbol all over the world of freedom of speech and journalistic freedom specifically. A way to show the Egyptians we will not be intimidated and certainly not silenced.

By jailing these men, Egypt has effectively shot itself in the foot, because it only served to prove how important journalistic freedom is and how much it is valued. After 100+ days* (Al-Shami 236+*) in jail people are still fighting for their freedom. 

It's because these journalists and many others like them do not belong behind bars. They should be outdoors doing what they do best. Using their talents to tell the truth about the world around them.

Where this situation goes or how gets resolved is open to question. But Abdullah Al-Shami is in a precarious situation. And it would be be desperately sad if he had to die to prove how important journalistic freedom is. One thing is certain though.

The men of Al Jazeera deserve their freedom.  Until they are released, the support will continue and calls for their release will never be silenced.  All anyone asks of the Egyptians is that they #FREEAJSTAFF

For the four talented men of Al Jazeera "JUSTICE" is as simple as that!.

(*These numbers were correct at the time this was originally written).

NB On 17 June 2014 Abdallah el-Shamy was finally released from jail on medical grounds.