What happens when a girl has access to 12 years of primary and secondary school education? She has the confidence, tools and knowledge to create real change for herself and her community. This is the story of Mezon+12. By Malaka Gharib, Malala Fund digital manager.
Last year, Malala visited the Zaatari Camp in Jordan, where thousands of Syrian refugees are living to escape the civil war in Syria. It was there where she met and became friends with Mezon, a 16-year-old student who goes from tent to tent to encourage girls in her camp to go to school.
In a crisis that has forced nearly 3 million Syrian children out of school, some journalists have called Mezon the "Malala" of Syrian refugees for her passion for education.
Moved by her story, Malala invited Mezon to join her at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo in December. Together, along with four other incredible girl heroes, they sent a powerful message to the world: ALL girls deserve access to secondary education.
Now that Mezon is back in school at a new camp in Azraq, Jordan, we checked in to learn more about her story, life at the camp, and her dreams for the future.
Malala Fund: Tell us a little about yourself.
Mezon: I really like school! I am now in 11th grade and I always attend school. I can only be absent if there is any very urgent issue.
Even as a young girl, I liked engaging with my community. I like to listen and provide guidance to girls my age. My friends meet me at my house so we can discuss things that help us in education.
We have the right to attend school and I feel I have a responsibility towards the community. As a girl, I can find friendly ways to convince a girl to continue with her studies.
When I was in Zaatari, I was doing a lot of activities with other girls, and one day Malala showed up. We have so many links, as we have the same goal. She is one year older than me: I am 16 years old, and Malala is 17 years old.
To me, Malala is a big hero because she suffered a lot and she almost died of her injury. For me, as a refugee, this means I do not have to give up hope, which means I can get an education. That is why Malala is so important to me.
What's your community like?
The community means everything. If a community is positive or negative, it will reflect on the individuals in that community. And a child is very important in the community structure. If we notice that a child's rights have been violated, for example not going to school or early marriage, we should support them however way we can.
I am doing activities with organizations on early marriage and education. I talk to school dropouts and write reports. A lot of issues will be solved, especially for refugee children, if we encourage them to go to school.
Tell us about your family.
I live with my parents, and I have two brothers and a sister. All of them are also in school. Yusra is in 7th grade, Zain in 3rd grade and Muhammed in 9th grade. But I am the oldest at home. I sometimes help them with their homework.
Both my parents were teachers before. They are so proud of me, even in all the small things I do. My parents encourage me a lot, also to support other children.
Mezon with her family. Photo credit: UNHCR.
What is your favorite subject in school? Why?
I like everything, but I like science most. Science covers many issues in our life, like medicine. As a culture we need to know about all this.
What annoys you about school? What is really your favorite part of your school day?
We take the whole curriculum, but what I don't like is that we can only do theory and not practicals in school. For example, we should be doing a practical but as we don't have electricity, we only get theory classes, or we need to work on the computer, but we don't have one.
My favorite part of the day is in the morning time, the first classes, because I still have energy.
What is happening in your community that makes it sometimes difficult for girls to go to secondary school?
Some families do not want to send their girls to school, because they are afraid that if girls continue with their education, she will become more independent and will not follow her husband. Some families believe that early marriage is a good life for their child, but they never think of education as a good life for their girl.
Mezon and Malala at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. Photo credit: Malala Fund.
What are you doing to make your education better?
I always keep my ambition in my heart. I increase my time for studies so I can get better grades, but if I don't get the right grades, I do not break down, I do not get discouraged. I just work harder to get better grades next time.
What do you want to be when you grow up? How do you see your future?
I want to be a journalist. My future, I think it will be very nice.
What inspires and motivates you to continue to go to school?
I think education is the focal point for everything. With education, we can solve anything. And when we look for opportunities for work, we can get a better job if we get educated. That motivates me to continue.
Thank you Mezon for taking the time to answer our questions. Good luck with the rest of the school year!