Nobel Laureate’s father praises Manchester’s “little philosophers”

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ZIAUDDIN Yousafzai, father of the Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, has praised the children of Manchester as “little philosophers” and said they will go on to do great things for their communities.

Speaking at the national final of Mother Tongue Other Tongue, held at Manchester Metropolitan University, the renowned poet and ambassador said: “Many children feel shy and for schools to help them experience speaking and poetry is a great opportunity. They realise what they think and say is important – later on they could be great leaders and change their community.”

He added: “I really support children being taken to these opportunities – for children to stand and talk and be encouraged to go to podiums and the stage and express their own words, it’s a wonderful thing – these children are little philosophers and we should recognise them.”

Mother Tongue Other Tongue is a poetry competition split into two parts. “Mother Tongue” sees children who do not have English as a first language write about what a lullaby, poem or song in their native language means to them, while as part of “Other Tongue” pupils create an original poem in a second language that they are learning at school.

View our Storify of the event by clicking here

The competition has received more than 14,000 entries in over 70 languages since its launch in 2013.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala has officially endorsed the project. She said: “Our cultural heritage, identity and languages are all important to us and poetry is a great way to express these – I am inspired by my father, who is a great poet.”

Khadijah Mahmood, from Manchester Academy, was a winner in the North West section of the competition. She said: “My poem is about a terror attack in a school in Pakistan. We’re so lucky that doesn’t happen to us – we should be helping people. It’s such a happy feeling to have won.”

The project is organised by the languages consortium Routes into Languages North West and is also backed by the British Council.

Vicky Gough, Schools Adviser at the British Council said: “Languages open many doors for young people – from boosting job prospects to acquiring the ability to understand and better connect with another culture – so we are delighted to be supporting this fantastic competition.

“As an organisation, the British Council was founded to create a friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and the wider world. We continue to do this by bringing international opportunities to UK schools and ensuring that pupils across the country are given the chance to experience the world – including language learning – in their classrooms. We hope that this competition will help inspire even more young people to embrace language learning and to understand the many benefits that speaking another language can bring.”

Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Languages and Social Science, Dr Sharon Handley, said: “I am delighted this year the national Mother Tongue Other Tongue competition is officially endorsed by the youngest Nobel Peace Prize Winner and education activist, Malala Yousafzai.

“This is a fantastic and unique opportunity, to have a global icon and one of the 100 most influential people in the world to support the project. Malala is a global icon and an inspiration, promoting the values of education, diversity, inclusion and possibilities for young people internationally.”