Special meeting: Malala Yousafzai had the opportunity to meet US President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and Malia Obama at the White House after she spoke out that women in Pakistan have a right to get an education. *AFP photo
Special meeting: Malala Yousafzai had the opportunity to meet US President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and Malia Obama at the White House after she spoke out that women in Pakistan have a right to get an education. *AFP photo

Most of us take the right to an education for granted.

But the next time you or your child moans about going to school, it’s important to put it in perspective.

More than 57 million children around the world to not have the chance to go to primary school.

Without a good education, the next generation is less likely to get a job and to be able to care for their own families.

Education is also vital to the growth of the economy in developing countries.

But in many, children face violence if they seek an education.

Malala Yousafzai is one student who challenged the system. 



Who is she?

Malala Yousafzai is a 16-year-old girl from the town of Mingora in northwestern Pakistan.

She survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban for speaking out on the rights of women to get an education.


What happened?

Malala grew up in the Swat Valley which was taken over by the Taliban. Militants banned girls from going to school, so in 2009 — at the age of 11 — she started writing a blog for the BBC, describing life under Taliban rule.

In 2010 she became the subject of a New York Times documentary. 

As she rose in prominence she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize, in 2011.

On October 9, 2012, a Taliban gunman attacked her on a school bus, shooting her in the head and neck.

He shouted: “Which one of you is Malala? Speak up, otherwise I will shoot you all.”

After saving her life, doctors sent Malala to  Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, UK, for rehabilitation.

The shooting provoked revulsion around the world.


Why do the Taliban want her dead?

The Taliban claim Malala is “promoting western culture” and going against Islam.

A spokesman said: “She is a Western-minded girl. She always speaks against us. We will target anyone who speaks against the Taliban.”


Why is she important?

Malala spoke out for women’s rights and brought international attention to the plight of children denied an education.

United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched the UN petition ‘I am Malala’, demanding all children worldwide are in school by the end of 2015.

More than two million people signed a petition which led to Pakistan passing its first Right to Education Bill.

Malala was voted among ‘The 100 Most Influential People in the World’ in the April 2013 edition of Time.

She also won Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize, the Sakharov Prize and the Simone de Beauvoir Prize.

The teenager was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

On her 16th birthday, on July 12, she spoke before the UN to call for worldwide access to education.

She is an inspiration for millions of children who need and want an education.


What happens now?

Despite Pakistan police naming a shooting suspect — Atta Ullah Khan — he remains at large.

Mullah Fazlullah, the cleric who ordered the attack, is also in hiding.

Malala, however, is embarking on a more prominent role. 

This month she met US President Barack Obama, and she hopes to become prime minister of Pakistan one day.

She has also set up the Malala Fund, which aims to send 40 girls to school in Swat Valley and to help some of the 600 million girls in the developing world towards an education.

She is now back in school, in Birmingham, and her memoirs have just been published in a book, I Am Malala. 


Research
by Amanda Dale