Most of the students from Syria, including new arrivals, have found a safe environment at the school to continue their education thanks to the efforts of UNRWA staff, they told Pontefract. The students were excited to see Dr Mohammed Ammouri, UNRWA's education chief for Syria and a familiar face, giving him an the delegation a warm welcome to their class.
"Hope to see you soon in Syria"
While grateful for the support they've received in Lebanon, the students want to return to Syria as soon as possible, they said. “Please greet Syria for us”, one said. Another added, “we hope to see you soon in Syria!”
“I am so impressed by the ability of the students to adapt to this difficult situation,” said Dr Ammouri, visibly touched at seeing the students he knew from Syria.
“I'd like to express my appreciation for my colleagues in Lebanon who, with great dedication and flexibility, have extended their support to Palestine refugees from Syria.”
Director of UNRWA's Education programme Dr Pontefract described how heartened she was at how well the students adapted to their new schools, and the passion with which they continue to study. More help was needed to support them, she said.
“While we have seen that UNRWA is capable of adapting to this challenging situation, we need more support", she said. "We need to prepare our teachers better, and provide all children with textbooks, stationary, recreational activities and psychosocial support.”
Struggle to support
The students from Syria spoke about their struggles with the differences between the curricula of the two countries; in Lebanon, for examples, math and science are taught in English. Administrators at Mazar school are working hard to extend the curriculum to meet the needs of the new arrivals, they said; but more support was needed, along with resources like textbooks and stationery.
The visit provided important insights into the situation of young Palestinians from Syria in Lebanon ahead of a forum hosted by UNRWA in Beirut last week on the provision of education in emergencies in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The forum was hosted by UNRWA with the UN's Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in collaboration with the Norwegian Refugee Council. It brought together key actors in the delivery of education to those affected by the Syrian crisis, including UNHCR, UNICEF Syria and Lebanon and Save the Children.
The forum saw discussions on the challenges of delivering education and key areas where collaboration between different organisations was important, such as psychosocial support for children and teachers, and safety and security in delivering teaching materials for students. UNRWA will participate in a network that will work to coordinate education in emergencies in the region, helping UNRWA's field offices affected by the Syria crisis to provide more effective support for students.
The visit to Mazar school was led by UNRWA’s Chief of Education in Lebanon Mr Walid Khatib, and was organised for UNRWA’s Chief of Education in Syria Mr Mohammed Ammouri, the Director of UNRWA Education Dr Caroline Pontefract, and Education in Emergency Specialist Elin Gjertsen.