The youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai on Sunday celebrated her 18th birthday in Lebanon by opening a school for Syrian refugee girls and called on world leaders to endow in ‘books not bullets’.
The young girl became a sign of boldness after she was shot on a school bus for supporting the rights to education for girls in 2012 in Pakistan by the Taliban.
“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 told Reuters.
A non-profit organization, The Malala Fund that supports the local education projects is reported to have paid for the school in the Bekaa Valley, nearby Syrian border that could greet up to 200 girls between the age group of 14 to 18.
In a speech, Malala said, “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.”
Around 1.2 million, out of 4 million present in Lebanon are refugees who have fled Syria’s war to neighboring countries and there are around 500,000 Syrian school-age children in Lebanon but only one-fifth of them are in formal education.
While one in four living in Lebanon is a refugee, the UN claims that the number of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries is predictable of reaching 4.27 million by the end of the year. “In Lebanon as well as in Jordan, an increasing number of refugees are being turned back at the border,” Malala said, adding, “This is inhuman and this is shameful.”
The proud father of Malala, Ziauddin expressed that he is delighted to see his daughter carrying on her activism into adulthood.
Welcomed with songs and birthday cake, Malala was humble as she shared her message. “They are amazing, I don’t think they need any message, I don’t think they need any other advice because they know that education is very important for them,” she said.