IF EVER there were valid excuse for taking a day off school, then joining the ranks of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King in being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize must rank rather highly.
But to the courageous teenager who risked her life to campaign for girls’ rights to education, skipping lessons was not an option.
It can come as little surprise that Malala Yousafzai chose to spend the day in class after being given the news she had been given the joint honour with Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi for her “heroic struggle” for equality in her homeland of Pakistan.
The 17-year-old, who moved to the UK with her family in 2012 after being shot in the head by the Taliban, is now the youngest winner of the prestigious prize.
Malala’s family, who live with the teenager in Birmingham, were said to be “delighted” after the Nobel committee made the announcement.
Her first cousin, Mehmood ul Hassan, the administrator of Khushal Public School where she studied before being shot, said he had spoken to Malala and her parents.
He said: “They are all very excited and happy about this.
“Malala told me that Allah has blessed her with this award and she hopes this peace prize will help her cause of educating girls, which is what she is focused on.”
Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister of Malala’s home country, led the chorus of praise for Malala as the news spread across the globe today, calling her ‘the pride of Pakistan’.
He said: “She has made her countrymen proud.
“Her achievement is unparalleled and unequalled. Girls and boys of the world should take the lead from her struggle and commitment.”
It was back in 2009, when Malala began life as an activist, writing a blog for the BBC about her life under Taliban occupation and promoting education for girls in the Swat Valley.
She was just 15 when she was shot in the head in Swat District, in the country’s north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province as she travelled home on her school bus.
One of the bullets hit the left side of Malala’s forehead and travelled the length of her face through the skin and into her shoulder.
In the days following the attack she remained unconscious and in a critical condition and was airlifted first to Dubai and then on to Birmingham, where she was treated for life-threatening injuries at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Since her recovery she has spoken before the UN, met the Queen and fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner US president Barack Obama, been named by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people and published her memoir, I am Malala.
Last year the UN made July 12 – the activist’s birthday – Malala Day, celebrating the campaign for a child’s right to receive an education.
The Nobel Prize committee said: “Despite her youth, Malala Yousafzai has already fought for several years for the right of girls to education, and has shown by example that children and young people, too, can contribute to improving their own situations.
“This she has done under the most dangerous circumstances.
“Through her heroic struggle she has become a leading spokesperson for girls’ rights to education.”