Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager turned education activist, is teaming up with former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on a $500 million initiative to provide education for 300,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Yousafzai, who gained widespread attention as the victim of a Taliban assassination attempt last year, will join Brown, a UN Special Envoy, in calling for the international community to contribute the sum over three years, according to a statement from A World at School, an education NGO partnering on the project. A World at School called the initiative “biggest single humanitarian initiative so far.”
Before the announcement, 16-year-old Yousafzai headlined an awareness campaign for Syrian children refugees with a Skype conversation with two young girls living in Lebanon since they were forced from their homes in Aleppo a year ago.
The United Nations said last week that nearly two million Syrian children, or 40 percent of students in grades one through nine, have dropped out in the past year. Many are among the one million child refugees who have fled Syria and struggled to find proper schooling. In Lebanon, the number of Syrian children refugees is expected to reach half a million by the end of the year.
Organizations have ensured education for more than 118,000 Syrian children as part of a broader humanitarian effort that the UN called the largest ever. But education remains among the least funded missions, and UNICEF said last week they have raised less than a third of the $161 million in requested aid for education. Only two percent of schooling needs in humanitarian crises are funded, according to the A World at Schools statement.
The initiative, the beginning of a broader push to provide schooling to refugees around the world, will be formalized at a UN General Assembly meeting Sept. 23, according to the statement.