Young Palestine refugees, many of them students, have been especially vulnerable to the effects of the conflict in Syria. Because the majority of UNRWA schools are located within the Palestine refugee camps themselves – in areas that have suffered serious violence – one of the most pernicious of these effects has been a disruption in their education.
Before the outbreak of the conflict, all of the 118 UNRWA schools in Syria were running on double shifts to provide around 67,300 students with primary and secondary education, following the Syrian curriculum. Violence, damage, closures and other factors, however, have left only 37 of those 118 schools open as of October 2013. Some of these schools are now operating three shifts. We are also educating some of our students at 43 government schools, which the Ministry of Education has agreed to let UNRWA use in the afternoons.
In total, we have enrolled over 40,000 young Palestine refugees – around 60 per cent of the pre-conflict total. We have worked with partners including UNICEF, GAPAR and community institutions on numerous strategies to minimize the disruptions for those UNRWA students affected by the conflict, by developing self-learning materials, offering summer programmes, arranging for access to examinations and emphasizing psychosocial well-being for both students and teachers. We also work to improve the conditions of the government schools UNRWA is using.
As the conflict continues, security conditions remain a pressing concern for the Agency as a whole. However, we remain committed to continuing our reform efforts, and have begun implementing programmes such as the School-Based Teacher Development and Leading for the Future. These reforms are an important part of ensuring that we can continue to provide a high-quality basic education to Palestine refugees in Syria.