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Malala Yousafzai Opens School for Syrian Refugees on 18th Birthday

Malala Yousafzai celebrated her 18th birthday on Sunday by opening a school in Lebanon, near Syria’s border, for Syrian refugee girls. The school is being supported by the Malala Fund, Yousafzai’s non-profit organization. According to the fund, the new school will welcome 200 girls aged 14 to 18. At the opening, Yousafzai gave a speech, calling for world leaders to “invest in books instead of bullets.”

image source: Jamal Saidi / Reuters

Originally from northern Pakistan, Yousafzai rose to international fame when she survived being shot in the head on a school bus by the Taliban in 2012; she was attacked for advocating women’s education. She and her family now live in England, and Yousafzai continues to campaign for girls’ education. In 2014, she became the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

An estimated 4 million refugees have fled from Syria in the wake of the nation’s civil war; Lebanon hosts around 1.2 million of those refugees. However, as more people flee Syria, Lebanon has stated that it will be unable to continue supporting the influx of refugees. Yousafzai’s speech was highly critical of the Lebanese government’s decision, saying, “you are failing the Syrian people, especially Syria’s children. This is a heartbreaking tragedy — the world’s worst refugee crisis in decades.”