Go Malala! Nobel Peace Prize winner opens school for Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Published July 13th, 2015 - 07:00 GMT

The youngest Nobel Prize winner in history is now officially an adult, and she marked her 18th birthday Sunday with yet another show of philanthropy -- opening a school for young Syrian female refugees.

Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education, opened the all-girl school Sunday in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley -- a location popular among Syrian refugees, particularly women and girls seeking refuge.

During the school's opening, Malala criticized world leaders for turning a blind eye to Syria's refugees, especially children.

"Today on my first day as an adult, on behalf of the world's children, I demand of leaders we must invest in books instead of bullets," she said in remarks at the school, which can accommodate up to 200 girls between the ages of 14 and 18.

The Malala Fund, a nonprofit education organization, paid for the new school, which is situated near Lebanon's border with Syria. It also announced a new grant of $250,000 to support UNICEF and UNHCR to pay for girls' school programming in Jordan's Azraq refugee camp.

"I decided to be in Lebanon because I believe that the voices of the Syrian refugees need to be heard and they have been ignored for so long," Malala said, after she was moved to tears by a number of girls who honored her with songs and a birthday cake.

Yousafzai became known around the world in October 2012 when she was attacked in her native Pakistan by a Taliban gunman one day while she was on her way to school. The gunman shot her in the head, but she survived -- and has led the charge for young female education in the Middle East since her recovery.

She was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2013 and her story led to Pakistan's landmark Right to Education Bill for children. Last year, she was the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Price for her child advocacy efforts.

Officials say more than a million refugees who fled ongoing fighting in Syria now live in Lebanon -- half of whom are school age children. About 80 percent of those children are not receiving formal education, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said in a report Sunday.

"This is inhuman and this is shameful," Malala said.

By Doug G. Ware

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