Malala marked her first day of adulthood by opening a school

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Malala at Refugee School on 18th Birthday

Nobel Peace Prize–winning Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai eschewed traditional teenage birthday festivities yesterday and celebrated her first day of adulthood by opening a school for Syrian refugees. The inspirational 18-year-old spent her birthday at the new school in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, which will help 200 Syrian girls earn baccalaureate and vocational degrees, as well as participate in skill courses designed to help them find work to generate their own incomes.

"I am here on behalf of the 28 million children who are kept from the classroom because of armed conflict," Malala said in a statement. "On this day, I have a message for the leaders of this country, this region, and the world: You are failing the Syrian people, especially Syria's children."

Yousafzai's nonprofit, the Malala Fund, is also calling on world leaders to invest an additional $39 billion in education — the equivalent, the organization notes, of eight days of military spending — to ensure that every child receives 12 years of free education. "Today, on my first day as an adult, on behalf of the world's children, I demand our leaders invest in books instead of bullets," Malala said yesterday. "Books, not bullets, will pave the path toward peace and prosperity."

SEE: Malala celebrating her 18th birthday in Jordan:

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Malala marked her first day of adulthood by opening a school
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, 18, left, and her father Ziauddin hold hands while walking in Azraq refugee camp, Jordan, Monday, July 13, 2015. Rich countries should spend less on weapons in the Syria conflict and more on education, Malala said Monday, calling world leaders "quite stingy" as she visited the camp for Syrian war refugees. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, 18, speaks during her visit to Azraq refugee camp in Jordan, Monday, July 13, 2015. Rich countries should spend less on weapons in the Syria conflict and more on education, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai said Monday, calling world leaders "quite stingy" as she visited the camp for Syrian war refugees. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai, 18, kicks the ball while playing soccer with Syrian refugee children during her visit to Azraq refugee camp in Jordan, Monday, July 13, 2015. Rich countries should spend less on weapons in the Syria conflict and more on education, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai said Monday, calling world leaders "quite stingy" as she visited a camp for Syrian war refugees. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai, 18, right, and Mezon al-Melihan, a 17-year-old refugee from the southern Syrian town of Deraa, enjoy a swing ride during Malala's visit to Azraq refugee camp in Jordan, Monday, July 13, 2015. Rich countries should spend less on weapons in the Syria conflict and more on education, Malala said Monday, calling world leaders "quite stingy" as she visited a camp for Syrian war refugees. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, 18, gestures while meeting with a group of Syrian refugee girls during her visit to Azraq refugee camp, Jordan, Monday, July 13, 2015. Rich countries should spend less on weapons in the Syria conflict and more on education, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai said Monday, calling world leaders "quite stingy" as she visited the camp for Syrian war refugees. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen))
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, 18, left, sits with Mezon al-Melihan, a 17-year-old refugee from the southern Syrian town of Deraa, at al-Melihan's shelter during Malala's visit to Azraq refugee camp, Jordan, Monday, July 13, 2015. Rich countries should spend less on weapons in the Syria conflict and more on education, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai said Monday, calling world leaders "quite stingy" as she visited the camp for Syrian war refugees. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, 18, left, walks with Mezon al-Melihan, a 17-year-old refugee from the southern Syrian town of Deraa, during Malala's visit to Azraq refugee camp, Jordan, Monday, July 13, 2015. Rich countries should spend less on weapons in the Syria conflict and more on education, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai said Monday, calling world leaders "quite stingy" as she visited the camp for Syrian war refugees. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, 18, poses for a picture during her visit to Azraq refugee camp, Jordan, Monday, July 13, 2015. Rich countries should spend less on weapons in the Syria conflict and more on education, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai said Monday, calling world leaders "quite stingy" as she visited the camp for Syrian war refugees. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, 18, left, and Mezon al-Melihan, a 17-year-old refugee from the southern Syrian town of Deraa, talk while visiting a class at Azraq refugee camp, Jordan, Monday, July 13, 2015. Rich countries should spend less on weapons in the Syria conflict and more on education, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai said Monday, calling world leaders "quite stingy" as she visited the camp for Syrian war refugees. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, 18, left, answers a reporter's question during her visit to Azraq refugee camp, Jordan, Monday, July 13, 2015. Rich countries should spend less on weapons in the Syria conflict and more on education, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai said Monday, calling world leaders "quite stingy" as she visited the camp for Syrian war refugees. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, 18, center, meets with a group of Syrian refugee girls during her visit to Azraq refugee camp, Jordan, Monday, July 13, 2015. Rich countries should spend less on weapons in the Syria conflict and more on education, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai said Monday, calling world leaders "quite stingy" as she visited the camp for Syrian war refugees. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, 18, adjusts her head scarf during her visit to Azraq refugee camp, Jordan, Monday, July 13, 2015. Rich countries should spend less on weapons in the Syria conflict and more on education, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai said Monday, calling world leaders "quite stingy" as she visited the camp for Syrian war refugees. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
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