Sophie Wilkinson | Contributing Editor | Monday, 13 July 2015

Malala Yousafzai Spends 18th Birthday…Opening A School

Malala Yousafzai Spends 18th Birthday…Opening A School

The Debrief: She got a massive cake too, obvs...

Cast your mind back to your 18th birthday. Did you go to some grimy club where they let in all your underage mates and drink into oblivion? Or did you just do something really boring because obviously no-one knows true drinking until they get to the binge emporium of university?

Whatever you did, we’ll place a firm bet on the fact you did not do what Malala Yousafzai did on her 18th birthday, which was open a school in Lebanon.

At the moment, 4 million Syrians have fled their country because of the civil war, and, well, ISIS. And 1.1 million of the refugees are in neighbouring Lebanon, a tiny slip of a country with 4.3 million inhabitants. The refugees have nowhere else to go, but their presence is putting quite a strain on the Lebanese, as they’ll soon make up a third of the general population.

As well as all the oodles of aid organisations and charities working in Lebanon to help ease the strain, Malala’s helped out by setting up the girls’ school using money solely from the Malala Foundation in an informal settlement in the Beka’a Valley.

The girls who’ll be learning there and the teachers who’ll be teaching there played host to Malala, singing Happy Birthday to her as she cut her school-shaped birthday cake, and then opened the school, saying, ‘Let this school be a very successful school, giving a future to many girls.’

She then gave a speech directed to the leaders of Lebanon, the Middle East and the ‘whole world’. ‘You are failing Syrian people, especially Syrian children. This is a heartbreaking tragedy.’

Malala later explained to the BBC that she wasn’t just speaking for herself but on behalf of displaced children denied an education, and that ‘ultimately a time will come that [world leaders] have to say yes’.

And she means David Cameron, too, because even though the UK has had its dealings in the Syrian conflict, we’ve only given asylum to 143 of the 4 million refugees escaping it.

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Tags: Malala Yousafzai