Change for a greener tomorrow: UNRWA students win environmental prize

13 June 2024
The winning project in action at the UNRWA Ramallah Elementary Girls’ School. © 2024 UNRWA Photo

Education for a greener world is an important part of the curriculum in UNRWA’s schools, not least in the West Bank, where environmental challenges abound. Students at UNRWA Ramallah Elementary Girls’ School have showcased this fact by ranking first in the local Environmental Guardians competition, thanks to their vertical farming project.

The competition was organized by the Ramallah Municipality to promote environmental awareness among schools in the city, and the students’ project will be used as a model for other schools that want to go green.

Dareen Al-Saeedi, 14, described their efforts, "Here at our school, we recycle any waste, whether plastic bottles, cardboard, or old clothes, and turn them into handmade crafts and souvenirs. As for our planting project, it took some time to show results, but our joy was immense, mainly when we harvested our first crop of strawberries and lettuce.”

A student of the UNRWA Ramallah Elementary Girls’ School tends to the school’s thriving vegetable garden. © 2024 UNRWA Photo
A student of the UNRWA Ramallah Elementary Girls’ School tends to the school’s thriving vegetable garden. © 2024 UNRWA Photo

 

“Our students worked passionately for over a year and took advantage of the resources available to achieve a first prize model of a healthy and environmentally friendly school,” said Deputy Principal and Project Supervisor, Etidal Kloub.

The competition took a two-pronged approach. Firstly, the students studied concepts like recycling, a healthy diet, waste separation and energy consumption and conservation. Next, they developed practical applications of what they learned in their vertical farming proposal. They understood that leveraging the vertical space in their densely populated camp communities would maximize their limited resources.

The winning project team pose for a photo at the UNRWA Ramallah Elementary Girls’ School. © 2024 UNRWA Photo
The winning project team pose for a photo at the UNRWA Ramallah Elementary Girls’ School. © 2024 UNRWA Photo

 

Sana Al-Aydi, 14, explained the thinking behind their idea of vertical farming, and the students’ scented candle project.

"The idea of vertical farming came from the limited space available in the refugee camps where we live and also within our school. We only have this small balcony, so we came up with this idea, which the students liked. As for the candles, we made them in different shapes, colors, and scents. I even taught my siblings at home," she says.

Sana also explained how students aged nine and up join in planting, watering, and organizing. After ninth grade, when the students have turned 14 or 15, they pass the project on to their younger peers, she said.

A student of the UNRWA Ramallah Elementary Girls’ School tends to the school’s thriving vegetable garden. © 2024 UNRWA Photo
A student of the UNRWA Ramallah Elementary Girls’ School tends to the school’s thriving vegetable garden. © 2024 UNRWA Photo

 

As part of their project, the students implemented a school-wide healthy diet that extended to their families and homes as well. School principal Lina Hleqawi explained, “Using the ‘Food Box’ system, students bring their lunch from home, where their parents ensure that their food is in line with health quality requirements.”

Since their inception more than 75 years ago, UNRWA schools have pioneered education for Palestine Refugees, particularly in the fields of science, technology, and environmental health. From solar panel installation in community centres and vocational training centres, to greening schools across our fields of operation, the Agency is proud to support Palestine Refugees as they enrich their community through environmental health for increased community well-being.