Malala Yousafzai friends set to attend Edinburgh University

Two friends of Malala Yousafzai, who were travelling with the education campaigner when the Taleban attempted to murder her in 2012, have received study offers from the University of Edinburgh.

Wednesday, 19th April 2017, 5:16 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:58 pm
Malala Yousafzai (centre) with Kainat Riaz (left) and Shazia Ramzan, pictured in 2013. Picture: Jane Barlow

Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Riaz are currently attending UWC Atlantic College in Vale of Glamorgan, in south Wales.

But the pair both have offers to study nursing at the University of Edinburgh.

Shazia and Kainat, who were 14 and 15 respectively at the time of the attack, were accompanying Malala home from school after a school exam when a masked Taleban gunman opened fire on their bus.

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Kainat and Shazia were invited to study at UWC Atlantic College in South Wales after Malala declined an offer. Picture: Jane Barlow

Malala was shot in the forehead, and Shazia was hit in the hand and shoulder. Kainat sustained a wound to her shoulder, after which the attacker ‘started shooting randomly’, Shazia told The Telegraph.

In the aftermath of the attack, Malala and Shazia were rushed to hospital while Kainat says she ran home terrified.

Malala’s injuries were so severe and complex that she was transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham for life-saving surgery.

But while Malala gained global recognition, Kainat and Shazia were treated as outcasts in the Swat Valley in Pakistan.

Kainat and Shazia were invited to study at UWC Atlantic College in South Wales after Malala declined an offer. Picture: Jane Barlow

Taxi drivers and buses refused to take Kainat to school, while her neighbours tried to force the Riaz family to leave, branding them targets for the Taleban.

But it was Malala’s influence that eventually brought Kainat and Shazia to the UK.

Settled in Birmingham, at Edgbaston High School for Girls, Malala was offered the chance to study at UWC Atlantic College but declined, asking if her friends could benefit from the invitation.

Kainat and Shazia were both given full scholarships, while former Prime Minister Gordon Brown - UN special envoy on global education - helped secure visas for the pair.

During her speech in December 2014 as she became the youngest recipient of a Nobel prize, Malala said: “I am not a lone voice. I am many. I am Malala, but I am also Shazia. I am Kainat.”

With Malala reportedly having received an offer from the University of Oxford, both Kainat and Shazia could be heading north of the Border to study in Scotland’s capital - with Gordon Brown again helping to find funding.

Despite Malala’s international reputation, the trio still try to meet up in Birmingham when they can, and chat regularly online.

But Shazia and Kainat are united in their plans post-education: they want to return to their homeland and continue campaigning.

“I believe I should go back [to Pakistan] and try to make change there,” Kainat told The Telegraph, while Shazia vows: “However we can help, we will.”