Malala Yousafzai was interrupted by her chemistry class teacher to be told she was the joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Education campaigner Malala urged children to “stand up for their rights” after becoming the youngest person to win a Nobel prize.
The 17-year-old activist was jointly awarded the peace prize with Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi for her “heroic struggle” in favour of girls’ access to education.
Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman two years ago for insisting that girls as well as boys have the right to an education. Surviving several operations with the help of British medical care, she continued both her activism and her studies.
Appropriately, she waited until finishing her lessons to speak to reporters outside Edgbaston High School for Girls in Birmingham, where she explained that a teacher had broken the news to her in chemistry class.
She said: “My message to children all around the world is that they should stand up for their rights.”
Explaining why she had campaigned against extremism despite the risks, she said: “At that time I stood up for my rights and I said ‘I will speak up’. I did not wait for someone else.
“I had really two options, one was not to speak and wait to be killed, and the second was to speak up and then be killed
“And I chose the second one because at that time there was terrorism, women were not allowed to go outside of their houses, girls’ education was totally banned, people were killed.
“At that time I needed to raise my voice because I wanted to go back to school. I was also one of those girls who could not get education. I wanted to learn and be who I can be in my future.”
Malala said she completed the rest of her school day after learning she had won.
“I went to the physics lessons, I learned. I went to the English lesson. I considered it like a normal day.
“I was really happy with the response of my teachers and my fellow students. They were all saying they were proud.”
The teenager said it was “quite difficult” to express her feelings but she felt “really honoured”.
She added: “I felt more powerful and more courageous because this award is not just a piece of metal or a medal you wear or an award you keep in your room.
“This is encouragement for me to go forward.”
Malala said that her dream at the time she was shot was to become a doctor, but that now she had decided to become “a politician, a good politician”.
Since 1980, Satyarthi has been at the forefront of a global movement to end slavery and exploitative child labour, which he called a “blot on humanity”.
Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said it was important to reward both an Indian Hindu and a Pakistani Muslim for their common struggle for education and against extremism. The two will split the Nobel award of $1.1 million (€870,000).
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