MINGORA - Malala Yousafzai, the teenage activist nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, says she has not done enough to deserve the award, as her old school closed Wednesday to mark the first anniversary of her shooting by the Taliban.
The 16-year-old was shot in the head by the Pakistani Taliban on October 9 last year for speaking out against them. She has gone on to become a global ambassador for the right of all children to go to school.
Feted by world leaders and celebrities for her courage, she has addressed the UN, this week published an autobiography, and on Friday will learn if she has won the Nobel Peace prize. But in an interview with Pakistani radio station City89 FM, Malala spoke of her desire to do more to promote education, saying she felt she had not yet earned the Nobel accolade. “There are many people who deserve the Nobel Peace Prize and I think that I still need to work a lot. In my opinion I have not done that much to win the Nobel Peace Prize,” she said.
In Swat Valley, where women are often expected to stay at home to cook and rear children, officials say only around half of girls go to school - though this is up from 34 per cent in 2011.
On the first anniversary of the shooting that came within a whisker of ending her life, her old school in Mingora, the main town of Swat, was closed to mark the occasion. “All sections of our school have been closed today to express solidarity with Malala on the anniversary of attack on her. The school will reopen as usual tomorrow,” a teacher in Khushhal Public School told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“We did not organise any function in Swat on the anniversary of attack on Malala because people fear they can also be attacked like her,” district education officer Dilshad Bibi told AFP.
“Many girls are scared that they can be attacked if they are attached with Malala.”
While Malala has enjoyed acclamation around the world, in Pakistan the response to her rise to stardom has been more sceptical, with some accusing her of acting as a puppet of the West.
But with her message of hope and determination she has managed to inspire some of the youngsters in her home area.
“The incident of attack on her one year ago is unforgettable. Education is our life and Malala raised her voice for it, so we like her very much,” said 12-year-old Humera Khan. “I also aim to fight for education when I grow up.”
Malala said she believes extremism can only be rooted out by educating the next generation. In an interview to BBC World News, Malala said she intended to return to her home country, despite the danger. “Dialogue is the only way to achieve peace and that extremism can only be rooted out by educating the next generation,” she said.
“I want to go back to Pakistan but first of all I need to be fully empowered... and to make myself powerful, I only need one thing, that is education, so I will get education, then I’ll go back to Pakistan,” she said.
Reflecting upon her life in Swat, the teenager said she was born in a society that didn’t value daughters.
Malala said her father Ziauddin was her mentor and biggest supporter.
“I accepted her as an individual. I did not treat her as a property. I honoured her as a free individual and I usually tell all parents all over the world - educate your daughters, they are amazing,” Ziauddin said.
Asked about her expectations for winning a Nobel prize, she said: “If I win Nobel Peace Prize, it would be a great opportunity for me, but if I don’t get it, it’s not important because my goal is not to get Nobel Peace Prize, my goal is to get peace and my goal is to see education of every child.”