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In rebuke to Taliban, Pakistan college named for Malala

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Pakistan college renamed for Malala 02:43

Story highlights

  • Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head for speaking out
  • "She sacrificed her life for us, for education," says an admirer
  • "Without an education, girls and boys are nothing," says another
  • Taliban claimed responsibility for shooting Malala, who remains hospitalized

In a message of defiance to the Taliban, authorities in Swat have decided to rename a government college after Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old girl who was shot in the head after demanding education for girls.

The college offers high school and undergraduate education for 2,000 girls and young women.

The female students here were reluctant to appear on camera -- afraid they, too, may be targeted. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the October 9 shooting, which left Malala wounded.

The students told CNN they were also afraid to attend the school, but were doing so anyway -- inspired by Malala and their right to seek an education.

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"I myself think that education is important because women have no right in this society so, due to education, they can get their right in this Pakhtun society especially," said Gulalai, an 18-year-old undergraduate student studying statistics and economics.

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    "I think she's a very brave girl," said Mehreen, 17, who is studying chemistry, botany and zoology. "She sacrificed her life for us, for education, that girls should take education for their bright future. For women it's very important in this society."

    They are attending the Swat Valley's first degree college to be named after a woman.

    "We always want to send a message across the world, that here we want to develop the female gender and we also want females to come forward in society," said Kamran Rehman Khan, a local government official.

    Asked if he was trying to send a message to the Taliban, too, he said, "Yes for sure ... We just want to tell them we will not be deterred by their actions."

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    The young women here are studying subjects as varied as English literature and economics to botany and zoology. They talk of becoming psychologists, lawyers, doctors and scientists.

    "When you educate a girl, you educate the whole family, the whole race," said Talat Qamar, the school's principal.

    He vowed to continue offering girls and women an education, though he said he needs help. "I think that we should be more secure," he said. "I have asked the local government officers and the local police chief to provide me with more security."

    Such determination and resistance were also visible among residents on the streets of Swat -- men and women who said they too will fight for females' right to education.

    "Getting an education is like bringing in the light, being uneducated is complete darkness, you're like a blind man," said one.

    "I have four daughters," said another. "And yes, they all study."

    Yet another resident summed it up this way: "Both girls and boys need to be educated; without an education, girls and boys are nothing."

    Yousafzai, who is undergoing treatment in a British hospital, was reunited Thursday with her parents. Malala has been thinking about school even while she lies in her hospital bed, Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters after meeting with her family.

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        Malala's battle

      • A copy of the memoirs of Pakistani child activist Malala Yousafzai is pictured in a bookstore in Islamabad on October 8, 2013. Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai tells of the moment she was shot by the Taliban for campaigning for girls' education in her new autobiography out on October 8, amid speculation that she may be about to become the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Co-written with British journalist Christina Lamb, 'I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban' tells of the 16-year-old's terror as two gunmen boarded her schoolbus on October 9, 2012 and shot her in the head.

        The teen blogger simply wanted an education. But she became a symbol of defiance against militants, empowering young women worldwide.
      • Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for girls education who was shot in the head by the Taliban, sits before she speaks at the United Nations (UN) Youth Assembly on July 12, 2013 in New York City.

        More than three million girls are out of school in Pakistan, while spending on education has decreased to 2.3 percent of GDP in 2010.
      • Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for girls education who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012, officially opens The Library of Birmingham in Birmingham, central England, on September 3, 2013.

        The Pakistani Taliban issues a new death threat against Malala, who turns the other cheek.
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        Hundreds of messages from around the world were received by CNN for Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani teen activist attacked by the Taliban.
      • Pakistani NGOs activists carry placards as they shout slogans at an event on International Human Rights Day in Lahore on December 10, 2012.

        Pakistan has a new heroine and a new cause -- a girl's right to education. Now the government vows to get every child into school by end 2015.