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Pakistan's Malala makes appeal to UN for universal education

Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai has spoken at the United Nations, appealing for compulsory free schooling for all children. It was the first public speech she has made since being shot in the head by the Taliban.

Malala made her address in front of hundreds of students and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at UN headquarters in New York on Friday - her 16th birthday.

Wearing a pink headscarf, Malala - who was treated in Britain for her injuries in the October attack - called for education to become the priority of the UN's Youth Assembly.

"Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons," Malala said. "One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution," she said.

Malala was giving her first public speech since making a near-miraculous recovery after the attack in Pakistan's Swat Valley, in which she was shot in the head on a school bus.

"The wise saying that the pen is mightier than the sword is true," she said. "The extremists ... they are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them."

Speaking about her own experiences, Malala said the attack had not diminished her determination to ensure that children receive a formal education.

"I'm the same Malala," she said. "My hopes are the same, my ambitions are the same and my dreams are the same. I'm here to speak up for the right to education of every child."

Ahead of the speech, UNESCO and Save the Children released a special report titled "Children Battling To Go To School."

The report found that 95 percent of the 28.5 million children who receive no primary school education live in low- and lower-middle-income countries. Of those, 44 percent live in sub-Saharan Africa, 19 percent in southern and western Asia and 14 percent in the Arab states.

rc/ipj (AP, Reuters)