Malala praises 16-year-old Mahnoor Cheema for scoring 34 GCSEs

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LONDON: Nobel Peace Prize winner and education activist Malala Yousafzai has praised the remarkable achievement of fellow Pakistani Mahnoor Cheema, who scored 34 GCSEs with A-stars, making a new UK and world record.

Malala hosted a dinner for Cheema and her family to praise her several accomplishments at merely 16 years of age describing her as an inspiration to children in Pakistan and around the world.

The two met after Cheema revealed that Malala had been an inspiration to her since she was seven years of age and that she had Malala’s posters in her bedroom. She considers Malala to be her role model due to her complete courage in the face of challenges, kindness, humility and passion. The parents of both Malala and Mahnoor also attended the dinner at a restaurant in central London.

The News reported last week that the 16-year-old British Pakistani student Mahnoor Cheema had passed an astonishing total of 34 subjects at the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) level – setting a new record in the history of the United Kingdom as well as internationally. She passed 17 subjects with A* grades as a private candidate in year 10 and added 17 more subjects in Year 11 — taking the total count to 34 — and marking the highest number of subjects ever taken by a student in the history of UK and EU GCSEs.

Malala Yousafzai and Mahnoor Cheema spoke to The News exclusively about Oxford University, food, fame, dreams and educational accomplishments.

Expressing her views on meeting with the Nobel Prize winner, an elated Cheema said that meeting Malala was everything she could have hoped for.

“This has been a surreal experience for me. Meeting Malala has been my childhood dream because she has been such an inspiration to me since I was very young. As a Pakistani, she has become a pioneer for female education and she is working hard for the empowerment of young women. This is truly a dream come true for me.,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Nobel Prize winner said she was very proud of Mahnoor Cheema. She said: “Mahnoor has performed brilliantly. It’s a matter of huge pride for all Pakistanis and others that a Pakistani girl like Mahnoor has accomplished something so inspirational. She has inspired lots of children; I dream that girls all over the world get a chance to obtain an education, and it fills my heart with joy when I see girls like Mahnoor doing so well and working hard. I wish that girls around the world can flourish and move up the charts in education, and Mahnoor is inspiring other girls with the message that you can achieve anything in life as long as you work hard and get good grades to fulfil your dreams. I am very happy for Mahnoor and I wish her all the best.”

Cheema has expressed her intention to study medicine at Oxford University. Malala has already graduated from Oxford University with a Philosophy, Politics and Economics degree. They talked about studying at Oxford and what life is like there.

Malala said: “I told Mahnoor that she is a remarkable student; she is very, talented, hard-working and bright. Inshallah, If she continues with her brilliance, she will get offers from all top-ranking universities, be it Oxford or any other university. She can fulfil her dreams there and I am very excited for Mahnoor. I have full faith that she will continue to shine and I am sure that she will continue to make us proud. She is a dedicated girl who wants to serve humanity, and she told me she wants to study medicine. When I asked her what she wanted to be, she told me that her main objective is to serve the ones who lack basic health facilities. Her passion for working for others and giving back to society is inspiring and I have full faith that she can study at any university she wants to and one day will be to contribute a lot for the betterment of humanity.”

Cheema said Malala shared tips with her about life at Oxford University, how to balance education and social life, how to write a good personal statement, and what to do during the interviews.

The 16-year-old said that she came to know about Malala Yousafzai for the first time in Pakistan when her mother gave her a newspaper and asked her to read a story about Malala Yousafzai. She shared: “My mother handed me a newspaper and I learnt for the first time how Malala expressed extreme courage and resilience in the face of threats to her life. She has never compromised on her campaign for the rights of young women and their education despite so many concerns for her safety. She continues fighting for what she believes in. Even at seven years old, I knew that we had all in common.”

The student thanked Yousafzai for hosting her family and encouraging her. She said: “The food was delicious. It was Indian cuisine, Hyderabadi Biryani, lamb chops and everything was delicious.”

Apart from her academia, Cheema’s IQ has also been recognized on a global scale, at 161 on the Mensa IQ Test which is the oldest and historic high IQ society in the world, placing her among the top 1 per cent of the world’s population for intellectual ability. She has also completed ABRSM Music Theory and Practical in Grade 8, with Distinction. She is one of the youngest individuals in the UK to be pursuing a Music Diploma. She has also been shortlisted in the prestigious John Locke essay competition, with the awards ceremony in Oxford later this year. Owing to her ambitions to study Medicine at the University of Oxford, she undertook the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) and the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT) at the age of 15, falling in the 99th percentile of test-takers with a score of 3290. Her passion for medicine, coupled with her outstanding track record, positions her as a promising future medical professional.

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