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UN chief promotes universal education on Malala Day


12:49, July 13, 2013

UNITED NATIONS, July 12 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- Moon, together with Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for going to school, on Friday urged youth to stand up for universal education.

"When girls are educated, when young people are educated, then that is what the terrorists are most fearful of most, rather than anything else," the secretary-general said at the UN 'Malala Day' Youth Assembly.

In his remarks, Ban welcomed Yousafzai, praising her courage and determination. He has dubbed today -- Yousafzai's 16th birthday -- 'Malala Day' in honor of her heroic stand to ensure education for all.

"Malala chose to mark her 16th birthday with the world," Ban said, noting the strong support she has received from millions of people all over the world is a clear sign saying: "Malala, you are not alone. We are all with you, standing behind you."

Malala first came to the public attention when she was shot by the Taliban for speaking up for girls' rights to education. She has since served as a symbol of courage against oppression. Upon recovery, Malala has been back to school and continued to campaign for every child's right to education.

During his speech, Ban shared with the students at the Youth Assembly his own story when he was a boy from a poor village that was destroyed by the Korean War. He had to study in the open, under the trees, but was hungry and thirsty for education."

"No child should have to die for going to school. Nowhere should teachers fear to teach or children fear to learn. Together, we can change the picture," he said.

Ban also reiterated the UN's commitment to give access to quality education to every girl and boy through its Global Education First Initiative which has three priorities: to put every child in school, improve the quality of learning, and foster global citizenship.

In her speech, Yousafzai told the gathering that the Taliban's attack nine months ago changed nothing in her life, except that " weakness, fear and hopelessness died."

"The extremists were, and they are, afraid of books and pens," she said. "The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women."

Urging worldwide action against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, she said: "Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One teacher, one book, one pen, can change the world."

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