Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head for speaking out
"She sacrificed her life for us, for education," says an admirer
"Without an education, girls and boys are nothing," says another
Taliban claimed responsibility for shooting Malala, who remains hospitalized
In a message of defiance to the Taliban, authorities in Swat have decided to rename a government college after Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old girl who was shot in the head after demanding education for girls.
The college offers high school and undergraduate education for 2,000 girls and young women.
The female students here were reluctant to appear on camera – afraid they, too, may be targeted. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the October 9 shooting, which left Malala wounded.
The students told CNN they were also afraid to attend the school, but were doing so anyway – inspired by Malala and their right to seek an education.
“I myself think that education is important because women have no right in this society so, due to education, they can get their right in this Pakhtun society especially,” said Gulalai, an 18-year-old undergraduate student studying statistics and economics.
“I think she’s a very brave girl,” said Mehreen, 17, who is studying chemistry, botany and zoology. “She sacrificed her life for us, for education, that girls should take education for their bright future. For women it’s very important in this society.”
They are attending the Swat Valley’s first degree college to be named after a woman.
“We always want to send a message across the world, that here we want to develop the female gender and we also want females to come forward in society,” said Kamran Rehman Khan, a local government official.
Asked if he was trying to send a message to the Taliban, too, he said, “Yes for sure … We just want to tell them we will not be deterred by their actions.”
The young women here are studying subjects as varied as English literature and economics to botany and zoology. They talk of becoming psychologists, lawyers, doctors and scientists.
“When you educate a girl, you educate the whole family, the whole race,” said Talat Qamar, the school’s principal.
He vowed to continue offering girls and women an education, though he said he needs help. “I think that we should be more secure,” he said. “I have asked the local government officers and the local police chief to provide me with more security.”
Such determination and resistance were also visible among residents on the streets of Swat – men and women who said they too will fight for females’ right to education.
“Getting an education is like bringing in the light, being uneducated is complete darkness, you’re like a blind man,” said one.
“I have four daughters,” said another. “And yes, they all study.”
Yet another resident summed it up this way: “Both girls and boys need to be educated; without an education, girls and boys are nothing.”
Yousafzai, who is undergoing treatment in a British hospital, was reunited Thursday with her parents. Malala has been thinking about school even while she lies in her hospital bed, Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters after meeting with her family.