Bringing STEM to UNRWA Girls

11 July 2014
10th grade UNRWA students Bayan Ali and Hadeel Al-Hayek, from Al-Jofeh Preparatory Girls’ School, work on an industrial pick and place robot. © UNRWA

Though few in number, the 45 Palestine refugee girls gathered on 26 June 2014 at the Jubilee Centre for Excellence in Education, in Amman, represented a major step in equalizing access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. Aged between 14 and 16, the girls, students at three UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools in South Amman, were chosen based on academic merit to participate in the exciting partnership between UNRWA and SciGirls to design and implement innovative STEM education programmes in UNRWA schools.

SciGirls was formed in 2011 by Yara Sifri, an Arab-American pre-medical student at Columbia University, to share her passion for science and social enterprise with girls who have limited access to state-of-the-art STEM education. The partnership with UNRWA, which began in 2013, aims to empower girls with hands-on experience, to place them on par with peers throughout the world and to encourage them to pursue scientific careers. Through the partnership, the girls participated in fun-filled STEM education, swimming and arts courses, with the top students chosen for a year-round robotics club at their schools. 

Sixteen-year-old Amal Abu-Hani, a tenth-grade student at the UNRWA Al-Jofeh Preparatory Girls’ School, said: “It was a beautiful and interesting experience, especially since it was the first time I participated in a summer camp. I was happy to learn many things such as chess and robotics, as these labs are not available in our schools.”

At the Jubilee Centre, the girls received graduation certificates from Director of UNRWA Operations in Jordan Roger Davies and Princess Raya Bint Al-Hussein, who presided over the ceremony. Also present was Professor Jihad Hamdan, the chief of the UNRWA education programme in Jordan, who said: “I extend my thanks and appreciation to the supporters of SciGirls programme, which helped in improving the scientific skills of UNRWA students and enhancing their knowledge.”

SciGirls is funded entirely by the private corporate sector in Jordan, as well as by individual supporters. In 2014, the programme was supported by Saraya, Optimiza, Aramex and Mahmoudia Group, along with Waddah Barkawi and Rami Malhas. Prof. Hamdan said: “We greatly appreciate our donors' generosity and commitment to corporate social responsibility”.