Right To Play and UNRWA: A meaningful state of play

01 February 2016
© 2015 UNRWA Photo by Shaza Ghadia
© 2015 UNRWA Photo by Shaza Ghadia

In 2003, in the midst of the second iIntifada, Right To Play (RTP) began operating in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).  RTP, though it was still in its infancy, set about establishing itself as a unique and much-loved programme in the lives of Palestinian children. The realities of operating within the oPt are hard, however, with many challenges. Given the clear similarities between the goals of RTP and UNRWA towards creating positive change in the lives of Palestine refugee children and youth, a relationship was quickly formed. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed early on by UNRWA, allowing RTP to work with students in the Agency’s schools and offering vital logistical support, security advice and an encouraging hand in the early years. It was the starting point of a long and meaningful partnership between the two organizations.

Today RTP continues to work closely with UNRWA in pursuance of these shared goals under the two thematic areas of enhancing education quality and building peaceful communities.  

RTP uses ‘Play and Sport’ as a tool for behavioural and social change by fostering the physical, cognitive and social development of children so they can learn important life skills, conflict resolution and peace building techniques, and by improving basic education and promoting healthy development through games and sports. Living in a state of perennial conflict, Palestinian children benefit greatly from the opportunity to play, with sports being an enjoyable tool for teachers and students alike.

Built on a holistic approach to child development, RTP implements various activities, including training teachers to enhance their ability to effectively plan and implement Play-and -Sport-based activities and build their capacity with regards to managing groups and group behaviour, communication skills, ,promoting  inclusion , child protection, safety, and stages of  child development. RTP also implements sports tournaments in UNRWA schools to utilize sports as a tool for children and youth to learn valuable skills and concepts,  such as teamwork, cooperation , fair play and physical well-being.

Khan al-Ahmar primary school, where Bedouin children from the nearby Jahalin tribe attend, is an example of Right To Play’s commitment to marginalized and vulnerable communities. Located in Area C, the school is under continual threat of demolition, and both students and teachers are exhausted by the constant sense of uncertainty. RTP is a welcome relief, offering the young Bedouin children a constructive way to express their frustrations, while promoting healthy development, both physically and psychologically. 

Commenting on this partnership, the Chief of the West Bank Education Programme, Muhannad Beidas, said: “For many years, RTP has been – and still is – one of the Agency’s important partners in education. The work carried out in UNRWA schools has reflected positively on the development of the children’s well-being. The school activities targeting children in general, and marginalized students in particular, supported the implementation of the Agency’s Inclusive Policy. Teachers also received training that supported them in delivering a better curriculum for children and creating a conducive learning environment.”

Echoing these sentiments, RTP Country Manager Ghada Rabah said: “RTP has a unique and supportive partnership with UNRWA, whose strategic goals are similar to ours. We appreciate this partnership. Both UNRWA and RTP focus on targeting marginalized areas and serving children and youth by promoting the methodology of active learning and placing the child at the center of the teaching-learning process.”

Having worked within the Palestine refugee community for over 65 years, the UNRWA education programme constantly seeks to improve its services through dynamic cooperation with partner organizations. Its partnership with RTP is one powerful example of how such efforts can make a positive and lasting impact on the lives of Palestine refugee children and youth.