On Sunday, 17 November, Filippo Grandi, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), along with Felipe Sanchez, Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank, inaugurated the Agency’s Jalazone Coeducational School in the presence of US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kelly Clements, Consul General of the US in Jerusalem Michael Ratney and Regional Refugee Coordinator Guy Lawson. Also present were UNRWA school staff and representatives of the local community.
In his welcoming remarks, Mr. Sanchez said: “UNRWA is proud to offer the community a clear solution to ending the double-shift schooling system in the West Bank field, a solution made possible by the generous contribution of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM).” He expressed the Agency’s pride in ending the double-shift system while rehabilitating dilapidated classrooms in both compounds of the Jalazone school.
At the opening ceremony, Ms. Clements, representing the Government of the United States, highlighted the importance of this project and said: “Education is one of the most important things that we, as the international community, can provide for refugees, and this is part of the reason why the United States has been a consistent supporter of UNRWA work to improve educational opportunities for Palestinian youth, both inside and outside the classroom.”
UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi stated: “The United States is our largest single bilateral donor and fully supports our work in education for the Palestine refugees. The value of human development work for the next generation in the Middle East cannot be underestimated.”
Ms. Clements and Mr. Grandi stressed the importance of human rights education to both UNRWA and the US. In the West Bank, UNRWA began implementing Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Tolerance Education (HRCRT) in 2012, and since then has trained 902 teachers and 77 other education staff in the practice. The programme is being fully implemented in the 2013/14 academic year.
Mahmoud Mubarak, the head of Jalazone camp services committee, spoke on behalf of the local community, noting: “The refugees in Jalazone camp are very grateful for the services UNRWA offers with the support of its partners from the international community.” He continued by calling all the stakeholders to provide more support to UNRWA to enable it to respond to the increasing needs of Palestine refugees.
The rehabilitation and expansion project was initiated in 2011 and ended in October 2013. At a cost of US$ 1,755,049, it included the addition of 2,980 sq. m. in new classroom blocks to the existing Jalazone Girls’ School. It also created over 31 new classrooms, 4 new administrative rooms, a laboratory, restrooms and a canteen, in addition to external improvements to the former Jalazone Boys’ School.
The United States of America is the largest single bilateral UNRWA donor country. The US has placed special focus on the field of education, with the aim of providing Palestine refugees students with better educational facilities. This project has directly benefited the more than 1,410 pupils currently enrolled at the Jalazone Girls’ School and 598 boys enrolled in grades 4 to 9 at the Jalazone Boys’ School.
After the opening ceremony, Ms. Clements and the delegation visited the Jalazone camp health clinic, where Dr. Ummaya Khammash, Chief of the UNRWA West Bank health programme, presented to her the health services currently being offered by the Agency. Ms. Clements then toured UNRWA projects in the village of Budrus and visited the Bedouin village of Al Jabal in Bethany, south of Jerusalem, where she was briefed on the challenges faced by residents.