A group of 12 students from Berwickshire High School attended an event featuring Malala Yousafzai at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, provided a moving introduction to the day, but the highlight of the trip was a meeting with the inspirational Malala.
Aged eight, Malala was blogging anonymously for the BBC about her life under the Taliban in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. It was a very dangerous thing to do, but Malala was determined.
The Taliban had banned women from singing, dancing, and even from going to the shops. A year after she started blogging, the Taliban made a rule that girls should not attend school.
This had a huge impact on Malala’s life and put her in grave danger. As her blog became more popular, the number of threats she received also increased.
Finally, the Taliban ruled that she should be assassinated while she was going to school.
One ordinary school day, Malala’s school bus was stopped and several Taliban got on board. One of them shouted out “Who is Malala?”
When they found her they shot her through her head, neck and shoulder. It was a shot that rang around the world.
The bullet was immediately removed in hospital and she was flown out of Pakistan to Britain, where she was given further treatment. Cosmetic surgeons then carefully reconstructed her face and, as we saw, did an amazing job.
The Pakistan authorities recently caught and arrested the Taliban death squad responsible for Malala’s shooting.
Malala’s dad also attended the Edinburgh event. She said that he was her role model, having a major influence on pushing for girls’ education in Pakistan.
Malala said: “My father didn’t force me to do anything, he gave me equality.”
Malala has always loved school and education. She asked the audience: “Science and maths – don’t you like them?”
She thinks homework is precious and believes strongly in girls’ continued education.
Her mother, at her age, was not as keen on education. She had dropped out of school at an early age like many Pakistani girls. Malala says her mother now realises what she has missed and she often works alongside Malala while she does her home work.
Malala says that she wanted to be a doctor at first, but now she wants to be prime minister of her country so that she can make sure that every child gets an education. “You can kill terrorists through education.” she says.
She recently met Barack Obama and told him to send school supplies instead of weapons to war zones.
Malala thinks that everyone can help by using social media to spread awareness, ask for donations and encourage people to attend events. “It’s everyone’s duty to stand up and tell the world,” she said.
Malala has won many awards, including the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, and is the youngest ever nomine for the Nobel Peace Prize.
At the end of the event, two BHS students’ questions were selected to be asked: “What do you remember about the Swat Valley?” and “What book are you reading at the moment?”
With regard to Swat, she explained that she misses the picturesque landscapes and temperate weather in Swat. “We have 4 seasons there just like the UK, but it is not as cold in Swat.”
She also misses the snow-topped mountains, green waving fields and fresh blue rivers. The book she was reading was “An Inspector Calls”.
Overall the BHS students thought it was an informative and worthwhile experience.
○Written by Bonnie B and Madeleine C, students of Berwickshire High School