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Going to school is our right, says Malala

OSLO, Norway: Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai Tuesday said that going to school was a children’s right.She added that the state of affairs changed after she raised voice for education in Swat.

Nobel Peace Prize winners Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India also stressed the importance of uniting people across borders and religions by educating children and freeing them from poverty. The 17-year-old Malala, who was shot in the head two years ago in Pakistan for insisting that girls had as much right to education as boys, argues it is “not only the right but the duty of children” to be educated.

Sitting alongside Malala, the youngest Nobel winner ever, the 60-year-old Satyarthi told their news conference that even if a single child was denied education “we cannot say we are enlightened.”

The Nobel laureates, who split the $1.1 million award, were cited for working to protect children from slavery, extremism and child labour at great risk to their own lives. They reiterated that the prize was not only for them but for all the children of the world.

“It is very important for millions and millions of our children who are denied their childhood,” Satyarthi said. “There are children who are bought and sold like animals, who are made hostages … who are made child soldiers. This is an honour for them all.”

Malala said she was disappointed that the prime ministers of their two rival nations had not accepted her recommendation to attend the award ceremony in Oslo on Wednesday, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.

“Countries do have borders. It doesn’t mean that you should hate each other,” she said. “If they were here, I would have said to them to make education the priority together.”The visit by Malala and Satyarthi has drawn hundreds of people into the freezing streets of Oslo hoping to get a glimpse of the laureates.

Martin Slotnes, a Norwegian living in Australia who was visiting the city with his wife and children, said it was the first time he had taken interest in the peace prize.“Her story moves me,” he said of Malala, after showing his sons the picture he snapped of her from behind the barricade. “It was bitter cold, but it was worth it.”

Moreover, when Malala Yousafzai, the world’s youngest Nobel peace laureate, will receive the prestigious award in a ceremony in Oslo on Wednesday, she will share the moment with her best friends, who were also injured when she was shot in 2012.

Shazia Ramzan, 16, and Kainat Riaz 17, are the “unknown Malalas.”Two years ago, when a Taliban shooter climbed aboard a school bus in Swat valley and took a shot at Malala, Shazia and Kainat were sitting with her.

Malala, wounded in the head, was airlifted to England for treatment. She woke up to a different life and never returned.The world may have forgotten the other girls but Malala didn’t. Kainat and Shazia have been flown from Pakistan to Oslo for the Nobel ceremony. NDTV witnessed their reunion after two years, filled with tears and hugs, in a hotel in Oslo.

Kainat is still to recover from her injuries. “I am better now but when it is cold, my arm still hurts,” she told NDTV.Malala goes to school in Birmingham in England, and has become a symbol of the fight for women’s right to education in her country.

But Kainat says back in Pakistan, every day remains a battle.Bus drivers and taxi drivers refuse to take her to school; nobody wants to take a chance. Even stepping out of home is dangerous. Malala’s friends continue to be the reason for her life’s biggest campaign.

“I know I am not the lone ambassador for education in Pakistan. We are four of us,” says Malala. Her gesture has not surprised her friends.“We know Malala would never forget us, she would never forget Pakistan,” said Shazia, who has travelled outside Pakistan for the first time.

The girls say they will return home after two days and when they do, it is with renewed resolve to carry on the fight for women’s rights and peace.Malala Yousafzai has also vowed to work for protection of children’s rights not only in Pakistan but across the world with more vigour and dedication.

“It is a great honour for me to struggle for children rights not only in Pakistan but across the world and now they should stand up for their rights,” Malala said while recalling her struggle for getting education in Swat and Taliban’s terror in the valley.

She said Taliban did not allow girls to go schools and get education; they damaged educational institutions and carried out suicide attacks there to establish their writ.

“At that time I decided to speak up for my rights and others were thinking that things will change on their own,” she said adding, “The efforts set an example for the world because if you take an appropriate step you will succeed in bringing change.”

Meanwhile, Kailash Satyarthi said that apathy was the biggest obstacle to eliminating forced child labour and the world needed more secular education to reduce intolerance.

Satyarthi said that the problem was not religion itself but the people who hid behind it for economic and political gain. “Education brings tolerance to societies, which brings peace, global brotherhood and mutual respect for each other,” he said. “There should be more value-orientededucation with more human values,” added Satyarthi

The UN estimates that around 150 million children are routinely engaged in paid or unpaid work with children in sub-Saharan Africa at the greatest risk, where up to a quarter of those aged between 5 and 14 are forced to work. “The single biggest difficulty has been apathy,” Satyarthi said. “People are getting more and more materialistic.”

He said there was a lack of compassion around the world for the poorest and most vulnerable in society, who lacked the means and power to help themselves. Education has been a major issue in India since the Hindu nationalist government came to power in May.

Malala has dominated Noble coverage in the media but Satyarthi said he did not mind. “I never in my life tried to be in the limelight because I work with children who are most invisible,” Satyarthi said.

“My cause had remained invisible for years and so did I. Malala is a wonderful girl, she’s like my daughter, I adore and respect her a lot.”

Satyarthi dismissed the idea that violence against girls in the Muslim world was a factor of religion itself. “The very meaning of Islam is love and humanity,” he said.

“Some people use politics, businesses or religion for their short-term benefits and gains.” Satyarthi, who gave up a career as an electrical engineer in 1980 to campaign against child labour, has headed various forms of peaceful protest.

His NGO, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) has been credited with freeing more than 80,000 child labourers in India over 30 years. He estimates that about 60 million children are still at work.

The News