Humanitarian principles enrich learning in UNRWA schools in Gaza

22 July 2015
School Principal Basil Madi (right) and teacher Hanan Ashqar during a training on humanitarian principles at the New Gaza Elementary Boys A and B School in Gaza City. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan

Thanks to a United States-funded teacher training, UNRWA teachers in Gaza are better prepared to ensure their classrooms are safe, empowering environments for their students.  The training focuses on United Nations humanitarian principles such as humanity, neutrality, impartiality, operational independence, and protection.

“I now have a clearer idea of what humanitarian principles mean and I am reflecting on how I can pass these lessons onto the students,” says UNRWA teacher Hanan Ashqar. “I learned how to be impartial, firm, and how to better work with children with special needs; for example, how to empower disabled children to help them gain the respect of their classmates.”

Training in humanitarian principles is conducted throughout the year by the UNRWA Operations Support Officer (OSO) programme in Gaza, funded by the United States. In the first half of 2015, 765 UNRWA staff members – including 514 installation managers and 251 newly-appointed teachers and health staff – have received this training during 27 sessions.

Hanan says the training has helped her gain more self-confidence about the lessons she is imparting to UNRWA students. The humanitarian principles serve as guidelines for her work in the classroom, and are one of the many reasons why she identifies strongly with UNRWA and remains committed to the Agency.

Hanan and school principal Basil Madi both stress the need for UNRWA, as a UN agency, to remain politically neutral and protect the rights of all people, as the United Nations does throughout the world.

Basil says the training has raised his awareness of the responsibilities associated with working for a humanitarian organization providing services to refugees. “Since the training, I have put more effort into monitoring the installations regarding neutrality and impartiality. I am proud to work for an organization with clear rules and principles. These rules help me manage my work and communicate with staff members,” he adds.

Basil and Hanan not only pass messages of humanitarian principles onto their students, but also to parents and the wider community. During monthly outreach meetings with parents they sometimes “face a lot of pressure due to the difficult situation in Gaza,” says Basil. However, “I always tell them that the best way to support the community is to have educated children. Schools are for education, not for any other purpose. This is the only way we can protect UNRWA services,” he explains. Hanan adds: “Children have a right to play, dream and learn in a safe, secure and neutral space where they are taught by teachers and a curriculum that make clear the importance of neutrality, impartiality and protection.”