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Education in Syria
In the 2018/2019 school year, in Syria, UNRWA provided basic education from grades 1-9 to approximately 48,800 Palestine refugee students in 103 UNRWA schools located in Damascus, Rif Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Latakia and Dera’a.
Young Palestine refugees have been especially vulnerable to the effects of the conflict in Syria as the majority of UNRWA schools are located within the Palestine refugee camps themselves. Schools have suffered from the conflict and many have been closed. The Government of Syria lent UNRWA 43 schools for their use between 2014 and 2019. UNRWA is, however, beginning to resume the provision of education services in areas which were previously not accessible, including in Yalda, where UNRWA is now operating two government school buildings, and in Dera’a, through make-shift classrooms supported by the local community. Major construction, maintenance and rehabilitation works are, however, needed to restore education services in the 20 severely damaged UNRWA schools in Ein el Tal, Yarmouk and Dera’a camps. Rehabilitation of Ein Karem School in Dera’a was completed in time for the 2019/2020 school year.
Although security issues in Syria have been a pressing concern for UNRWA, the field remained committed to the implementation of the Education Reform Strategy. This included the successful implementation of flagship teacher development programmes: the School Based Teacher Development (SBTD I and II) programmes for teachers and the Leading for the Future (LftF) programme, for the school principals and deputy school principals. These programmes use a multi-media, blended learning, self-study, approach to enable teachers to try out new approaches in the classroom and school and reflect upon their impact, individually and with colleagues, and, thus, lent themselves to teachers learning during a crisis. By December 2018, approximately 1,455 UNRWA teachers in Syria had completed SBTD I, 380 teachers SBTD II, and 111 school principals and deputy school principals the LftF programme.
The Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Tolerance (HRCRT) programme has been key in all UNRWA schools since 1999. As in all fields, in UNRWA Syria, HRCRT concepts were initially taught through the use of supplementary enrichment materials that sought to integrate human rights-related concepts into the regular subjects taught. In 2012, UNRWA launched its HRCRT Policy and in 2013 an HRCRT Toolkit was developed to help teachers create and sustain a culture of human rights in their classrooms and schools, in line with the HRCRT Policy. As part of the HRCRT programme, school parliaments of elected students represent all students and support their local communities as appropriate; in 2017 the first field-level student parliament was elected in UNRWA Syria.
As a response to the impact of the conflict on students, UNRWA Education developed the Education in Emergencies (EiE) programme to help ensure that Palestine refugee children continued to access quality education and learning opportunities, even in times of crisis and conflict. The EiE programme is multi-structured, including training and awareness-raising sessions to students and their parents on explosive remnants of war (ERWs), as well as group and individual student psychosocial support counselling sessions. Catch-up classes have been provided for children who are lagging behind due to disrupted schooling or who have dropped out of school.
UNRWA in Syria continues throughout the crisis to operate the Damascus Training Centre (DTC), previously providing technical and vocational training to around 1,100 students. However, for up to six years during the war, the centre served as a residence for internally displaced persons (IDPs), housing around 1,200 IDPs. This has had an impact on the TVET programme. One approach to mitigate this challenge, and the challenge faced by potential IDP students in other areas, was to introduce both long and free short-term courses through e-learning, as well as providing career guidance and business development services in shelters. The DTC was reopened to students, with full capacity, in 2018 and in the 2018/2019 school year, a total of 1,044 students were once again enrolled at the centre. Targeting the poorest and most vulnerable Palestine refugee students, DTC offers training courses at different levels to match with the regional and local labour market needs.
The main priorities now for the UNRWA Education programme in Syria are the rehabilitation of classrooms and schools in newly accessible areas, ensuring accreditation of teachers with non-teaching qualifications in order to improve the quality of education service delivery, and providing psychosocial support to all students.
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