'Education? It's just a way to get kids out of the house'

After meeting US President Barack Obama and the First Family, and then narrowly missing out on winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai, who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban, spoke to the Queen and members of the Royal Family about the importance of education when they met at Buckingham Palace.

All smiles: Malala couldn’t suppress her laugh when the Duke of Edinburgh joked that parents in the UK were tired of their children. 

The 16-year-old was shot in the head in Pakistan last October after campaigning for the right of girls to go to school without fear. Malala was one of the guests at a reception for commonwealth, youth and education hosted by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

She was reduced to laughter by a comment from the Duke, who quipped that in this country, people want children to go to school to get them out of the house. Malala covered her face while in a fit of giggles at his joke.

The 16-year-old presented the Queen a copy of her book I am Malala and said that she wished the Queen and the UK government would help her campaign for education. She also said that it was a great honour for her to be at Buckingham Palace. Pics/AFP

The teenager, accompanied by her father Ziauddin, gave the Queen a copy of her book, I Am Malala, during their meeting in the palace’s White Drawing Room, telling her: “It is a great honour for me to be here, and I wanted to present you with this book.”

Accepting the gift, the Queen replied: “That’s very kind of you.” Malala told the Queen she was passionate about every child having a right to an education, everywhere around the world.

She added: “Especially in this country as well. I have heard about many children that can’t go to school, and I want to continue our work.”

Missing class
Malala said that she would not ordinarily miss a day of lessons -- but made an exception. “I had to miss school because I was meeting the Queen,” she said. “It’s such an honour for me to be here at Buckingham Palace. It’s really an honour to meet the Queen.” She added, “We need to fight for education in the suffering countries and developing countries, but also here.” She said she particularly enjoyed reminiscing about her home district with theQueen. “The most interesting thing was that when I met the Queen, I said, ‘When you were in your 20s you came to Swat and came to the White Palace, where I’m from’. It is a beautiful valley. It is like paradise on earth.”

To curtsy or not to?
The teenager admitted she had been unsure of the etiquette surrounding being introduced to the Queen. “I was really confused before meeting her, because some people said you have to curtsy, and some people said you should not talk until she talks,” she said. “Then when I met her, it was quite good and she was really nice. She talked to me in a very friendly kind of way.” Malala said she was hopeful the Queen, and the UK government, would help her campaign for education. Asked about the Duke’s joke, she said: “He said parents are tired of children, and that’s why they send them to school, and Ilaughed.”

Canada offers Malala honorary citizenship
Malala Yousafzai will be granted honorary Canadian citizenship. She will join an elite group of honorees who include South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi.

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