DCG Opening Remarks on World Teacher’s Day Event – Launch of the Education Reform Strategy

05 October 2011

5 October 2011
Amman Training Centre, Amman, Jordan


Ladies and Gentleman,

It is a tremendous pleasure to be here today to celebrate World Teacher’s Day with you. I welcome you here in this impressive vocational training centre and appreciate your joining us.

I would like to give special thanks to some of our key partners present here today. First of all, I’d like to thank the Government of Jordan, and the Department of Palestinian Affairs in particular. We are privileged to be joined today by Acting Director Mahmoud Aqrabawi. Our ability to provide quality services to Palestine refugees in Jordan, and work towards improving those services, is only possible due to the close cooperation between UNRWA and DPA. I look forward to enhancing and strengthening this close relationship as we strive to improve our services to refugees.

I’m very happy that we also have representatives of UNESCO, the World Bank, the Norwegian Refugee Council, and One Laptop per Child present with us today. The partnerships we have with these organisations are instrumental in us being able to provide quality educational services, not only here in Jordan, but also in Gaza, West Bank, Syria, and Lebanon.

Most of all, I’m delighted that we have with us today UNRWA’s most important asset – our teachers, and I am pleased that we are able to honour you for your dedication and hard work, striving to provide for a brighter future to Palestine refugee students.

I think each of us can remember a special teacher who inspired us, pushed us to explore, and led us to learn and achieve more. Sometimes that teacher draws us into a new world we didn’t know existed before; sometimes we decide to follow a particular career path because of the path illuminated by a teacher. But sometimes, the teacher, as a powerful role model influences not only the minds of the students he or she teachers, but helps shape their character. We all have at least one teacher in our life that was instrumental in shaping who we became and the paths we pursued. For me, as a 9th grade physics student, I was shy and lacked confidence – even when I knew the answer, I sat quietly back and observed. That was until Mr. Hirshhorn burst into the classroom and challenged us all, using his biting sense of humor. I initially observed but soon began to realize that I indeed had a sense of humor and that I could use it to overcome my shyness and lack of confidence. His tutelage enabled me to be attend a special science high school but more important to me is that he empowered me to use my sense of humor to reach out to others and it has made me more successful as a human being. Without Mr. Hirshhorn, I would still be sitting silently in the back of the classroom, watching life go by.

Here in Jordan, I’m happy to count more than 4,000 UNRWA teachers as colleagues. Each one of them is and can be that inspirational and transformative figure for refugee children, as Mr. Hirshhorn was for me. The brighter future we all want for these children is in the hands of these teachers, and it is important that we equip them with the tools, know-how, and support to make the most of their privileged position.

I am therefore pleased that today we are able to couple our celebration of World Teacher’s Day with the launch of our Education Reform Strategy.

For the past 5 years, UNRWA has been undergoing a comprehensive process of institutional reform. We started with the nuts and bolts of improving our IT, finance, and human resources systems and are now ready to embark upon improving the services we directly provide to refugees.

Our education programme is our largest service to refugees. It is also the programme which can provide the most transformational change to students, families, and communities. I believe that the very least we can provide any child in the world is the opportunity to probe, question, think independently and to shine. This reform is our commitment to allow Palestine refugee children to stake a better place for themselves in the world. It is our commitment to let them excel.

But it starts with teachers.

The Strategy that we launch today revolves around our ability to bolster the classroom experience for students. Central to this is the role of teachers. The reform will therefore focus, to a large extent, on further developing the capacity of our teachers – providing them with continuous development opportunities and giving them the required institutional support to maximise their potential. Combined with improvements to curricula, improved access to education for refugee students, strengthened educational research capacity, and stronger linkages with international and local educational reform initiatives, our goal is to equip Palestine refugee youth to be confident, innovative, questioning, thoughtful, tolerant and open minded, allowing them to contribute positively to their society and the global community.

Our Education Reform Strategy is ambitious and will not be achieved overnight, but I have every confidence that our teachers will rise to the challenge and that together with our partners we will be able to effect the change that our refugees deserve.

In a few minutes, we will play a film for you that provides more information on our Educational Reform Strategy, including words from our Commissioner-General, Filippo Grandi (who unfortunately was not able to make it here today).

Before starting this film, I just want to thank you for joining us as we start this exciting phase. I look forward to working with all of you in the months and years to come and hope that in future World Teacher Day celebrations we will be able to share with you numerous success stories of how we’ve been able to improve our education services to Palestine refugees.

Thank you.

Background Information

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 68 million.

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