Pakistani girls protest over naming college after Malala

Students afraid naming their school after shot teenage activist may make them a target for militants.

Police officers stand guard after students protest against the naming of Saidu Sharif College after schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai, in the Swat Valley.
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PESHAWAR, Pakistan // Pakistani girls yesterday protested against the renaming of their school after shot teenage activist Malala Yousafzai, saying the move would make them a target for militants.

About 150 students boycotted classes at what is now the Government Malala College for Girls in Saidu Sharif, in the north-western Swat Valley, tearing up and stoning pictures of the 15-year-old, accusing her of abandoning Pakistan by going to Britain for treatment.

The Pakistan government has renamed numerous schools in honour of Malala, who was shot in the head by Taliban militants in October for championing girls' education in Swat and is now recovering in a British hospital.

The students at what was previously known as the Government College for Girls said they had repeatedly asked the principal to remove the plate with the new name, fearing it would invite the attention of militants.

"We came out when the principal finally refused to accept our demand," Shaista Ahmed said. "We feel the college would be the potential target of militants.

"I joined others who chanted slogans against Malala and pelted stones on her picture because she had left the country to settle abroad. We are poor, we cannot afford it and we will suffer because she has fled to Britain."

A provincial official, Niaz Ali Khan, said the protesting students were "very angry and aggressive" and tore up a portrait of Malala which the authorities had erected on a college wall after the Taliban attack.

"The students ended their protest after we promised to convey their demand to the authorities," he said.

Mah Noor, 19, a student, said: "Malala herself is in Britain but other girls will remain in Swat. She will not come back to Pakistan, then what is the need to rename the college after her?"

Malala first rose to prominence at age 11 with a blog for the BBC Urdu service in 2009 in which she described life in Swat during the rule of the Taliban.

Taliban militants shot her on her school bus in Mingora, the main town in Swat, for the "crime" of campaigning for girls' rights to go to school, but she survived after surgery in Pakistan.

She was sent to Britain for further treatment and her courage has won the hearts of millions around the world, prompting the United Nations to observe a "global day of action" for her last month.

Malala's father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, a former teacher and headmaster, has been appointed UN adviser on education.