Malala Yousafzai, the teenager who was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in Pakistan while advocating girls’ education, attended her first day of school in the UK, weeks after being released from hospital.
The 15-year-old, who is among nominees for this year’s Nobel peace prize, described her return to school as the most important day of her life, as she joined other students in Birmingham.
“I am excited that today I have achieved my dream of going back to school. I want all girls in the world to have this basic opportunity,” she said in a statement.
Accompanied by her father and carrying a pink rucksack, Malala joined other pupils at Edgbaston high school for girls, close to the hospital where she underwent surgery to reconstruct her skull last month.
Alongside other students in Year 9, she will be studying a full curriculum in preparation for selecting her subjects for GCSEs. “I miss my classmates from Pakistan very much but I am looking forward to meeting my teachers and making new friends here in Birmingham,” she said.
Malala was brought to Britain for specialist treatment after being shot in the head at point-blank range by Taliban gunmen last October in the Swat valley in north-western Pakistan. Members of the Pakistani Taliban said she was targeted because she promoted “western thinking”.
She left hospital in February after making a good recovery from surgery during which doctors fitted a titanium plate to her skull and inserted a cochlear implant to help restore hearing in her left ear.
“She wants to be a normal teenage girl and to have the support of other girls around,” said Edgbaston headteacher Ruth Weeks. “Talking to her, I know that’s something she missed during her time in hospital.”
Gordon Brown, the former prime minister and current UN special envoy for global education, said: “This is a great day for Malala, for her family — and for the cause of education worldwide.
“By her courage, Malala shows that nothing — not even bullets, intimidation or death threats — can stand in the way of the right of every girl to an education. I wish Malala and her family well as her courageous recovery continues.”