UNRWA and the European Union inaugurate a new secondary school in Taalabaya

12 February 2009

12 February 2009

Beirut

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the Delegation of the European Commission inaugurated today "Al Jarmaq" secondary school in Taalabaya in the Beqaa valley. This school is funded by the European Union in the context of a €15 million major educational project aiming at enhancing and improving the quality of UNRWA‘s education system to open better employment prospects for Palestinians in the future.

The inauguration ceremony was attended by the Head of the EC Delegation to Lebanon, H.E. Ambassador Patrick Laurent, and the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, Mr. Salvatore Lombardo, as well as a number of UNRWA senior staff, representatives of the Palestinian community and school students.

Mr. Lombardo thanked the EU for its continuous and generous support to UNRWA especially its commitment to furthering the education of Palestinian youth. He said "Improving the education of Palestine refugees in Lebanon is essential for the improvement of their living conditions in general. The opening of this school would end double shift in the Beqaa. We hope to see more of this happening in other parts of Lebanon as it contributes to better quality of education and then better opportunities for their future".

The EC Head of Delegation in Lebanon, Ambassador Laurent confirmed that Al Jarmaq is the first of six schools to be completed within the upcoming year with European Union funding. He continued to assert that "Quality of education is as important as its quantity. This is why EU has dedicated €15 million not only for new schools but also for quality focused measures, such as teacher training, pre-schools, after-school activities, and support to children with special needs (for example those visually impaired)."

In parallel, the EU has been also granting university scholarships to Palestinian students in Lebanon through UNRWA (€3 million over three years).

"Al Jarmaq" school premises provide a healthy and suitable school education environment for 350 Palestinian students. Its construction helps UNRWA to provide single shift education to the students who have gained three hours of teaching time per day. The new school creates as well the opportunity to run recreational and curriculum supportive activities like computer courses thus improving the quality of education.

Some 4.6 million Palestine refugees in UNRWA’s five fields of operations – Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem – are eligible for Agency services, including education, healthcare, social services, shelter, micro-credit loans and emergency aid. UNRWA employs nearly 30,000 staff, the vast majority of whom are Palestine refugees. UNRWA’s operations are financed almost entirely by voluntary contributions from donors. The Agency’s regular budget for 2008-2009 is $1.1 billion, which covers the recurrent costs of the Agency’s education, health and relief and social services activities.

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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$ 56 million.

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