PESHAWAR: The hysteria over teenage activist Malala Yousafzai took a turn for the worse on Wednesday when girls in Swat Valley protested against the renaming of their school after the 15-year-old icon, fearing the move would make them a target for militants.
Around 150 students boycotted classes at what is now the Government Malala College for Girls in Saidu Sharif, Swat Valley, tearing up and stoning pictures of Malala and accusing her of abandoning Pakistan by going to Britain for treatment.
The government has renamed numerous schools in honour of Malala, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in October for championing girls’ education in Swat and is now recuperating 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 new nameplate, fearing it would invite the attention of militants.
“We came out when the principal finally refused to accept our demand,” student Shaista Ahmed said. “We feel the college would be the potential target of militants.
“I joined others who chanted slogans against Malala and pelted her picture with stones 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.”
Local government official Niaz Ali Khan told AFP 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.
Student Mah Noor, 19, 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?”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2012.