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Malala’s father says family is determined to return to Pakistan

The father of Malala Yousafzai said the family of the nearly murdered girls-rights activist plans to return to Pakistan in the near future.

"We still have some issues with her physical rehabilitation and she still gets rehab once a month," said Ziauddin Yousafzai, an educator who lives in the English city of Birmingham with his 16-year-daughter. "Education is also very important. She is still in Grade 10 and has her board examinations next year. So we will go to Pakistan."

Following an appearance at Vancouver's TED conference last Monday, Mr. Yousafzai was in Toronto raising awareness for the importance of girls' education with PLAN Canada and the Malala Foundation, which aims to raise several million dollars in its first year. So far, the girls education charity is halfway to its target, says Eason Jordan, director of operations and communications. Last year, Angelina Jolie was the first donor, pledging $200,000.

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In a videotaped address at Monday's event, Ms. Yousafzai, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, said she enjoys physics and learning about scientists such as Newton and Einstein and will persist in her campaign to educate more girls. After the 2012 attempt on her life, Ms. Yousafzai moved to the United Kingdom, where she underwent surgery and recovered from bullet wounds to her head.

More than 30 million girls across the world are not enrolled in school. Mr. Yousafzai spoke about the role of girls' education:

Is the education situation improving in Pakistan since Nawaz Sharif took over as prime minister?

We met with Nawaz Sharif in New York last year. My daughter asked him why the budget on education was very low. He said, "I'm increasing it from 2 to 4 per cent." She said, "It's too little." He laughed. He said, she is like my daughter and I am very proud of her. But, yes, education is getting more importance. There is increased enrolment in our province and all over the country.

Given what you, the Malala Foundation and PLAN are discussing, what do you commonly recognize as the most important obstacle to girls' education?

Law and order. A school must be a safe haven. Attacks against girls should be condemned and stopped. … A school is blasted and sometimes it's not news at all. Just imagine if you heard in Canada, God forbid, that on the outskirts of Ottawa a school has been bombed. Oof. Everybody will be shocked. But Pakistanis are very resilient, and in spite of schools being bombed, girls go to schools, boys go to schools, teachers go to schools. Two days after Malala was attacked, all the girls were back in school! I mean, a girl is attacked by a van in front of the school and that school still exists. It shows the strength of the people. But governments and policy makers still matter.

What effects did the Taliban death threats have on you?

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They made me more determined, more vocal, more aggressive. Why, why, why? In the 21st century people are trying to read to disabled children, and who are they to stop half of the population from going to school? I am shouting. Sorry … I didn't expect them to try to kill her. They didn't try to attack children or teachers before that. If anything, my family was worried about my life. When I used to go to my school I used to take different ways. I used all kinds of strategies. But they came for a different target.

You said that one reason for Malala's strength was that you never tried to clip her wings. What else didn't you do that made her voice so powerful?

I didn't impose obedience on her: "When I speak, you should be silent." I wanted to see her as a free and passionate person.

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