Malala Yousufzai's friends vow to stay in school

(CBS News) MINGORA, Pakistan -- In the classroom where Malala Yousufzai used to sit, there is now an empty chair. But all around, the desks in her class at Kushal School are full of girls determined to keep on learning.

Malala, a 14-year-old Pakistani activist, was shot in the head by the Taliban on Oct. 9 as she returned home from school in the Swat Valley town of Mingora. Despite the attack, one student says she and her classmates will not be stopped from getting an education.

In the grim hours after Malala was shot and transported to a military hospital, Melinda, the school's principal, didn't leave her side.

"I can't forget when we sat in the helicopter and she started vomiting and it was all blood," Melinda said.

The Taliban attacked Malala's school bus on a busy stretch of road just a half a mile from the school. But if anyone saw what happened, they're not talking.

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Police said the gunman stopped the bus driver and asked him, "Where is Malala?" The driver gestured to the back, where Malala was sitting. For the gunman, it was a simply a matter of raising his weapon and firing.

One of the bullets hit Kainat Riaz, who is now recovering at home. Kainat said that the gunman used a pistol but that she was too terrified to take in the man's face.

Terror first came to the town of Mingora with the Taliban's arrival six years ago. They forced women to stay at home, blew up girls' schools, and carried out executions and floggings.

In 2008, the Pakistani army moved in and forced the Taliban out. Since then, life has slowly returned to normal.

A crowd of spectators turned out Sunday for a cricket match -- the first such event since the Taliban was forced out. When loud music played at half time, several people were spotted dancing.

Sports fan Sayed Shafiq Aziz said that if people had danced when the Taliban was in power, they would have been killed.

Pleasure and public confidence returned to Mingora, in part because Malala Yousufzai led the way in denouncing Taliban repression.

Now, Malala is recovering thousands of miles away, in Birmingham, England, while her school friends muster their courage to carry on her fight.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."

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