Surpassing your own expectations: Education is a beacon of hope for Palestine refugees

18 August 2022
Rama Sallam, a Palestine refugee student scored the highest of all UNRWA students in the national ninth grade examination. © 2022 UNRWA Photo by  Taghrid Mohammad

“Words can't describe how happy I was on the evening of 19 July when the result of the national ninth-grade exam came out! Although I was sure I did well, my heart beat faster and my nerves tensed. Finally, the most awaited date came,” Rama Sallam, a Palestine refugee student in Syria.  "It was an evening of great joy and happiness. It was the best evening of my life because my relatives and friends called to congratulate me," she happily added.  

Displaced from Yarmouk, 14-year-old Rama lives with her family in Dummar in Damascus and goes to the UNRWA Ein Ghazal School. Although she was only five years old when her family left the camp in search of safety due to the deteriorating situation, Rama remembers the sky well, the blinding clouds of dust from shelling engulfing the area. Leaving everything behind was a traumatic experience for her family. What sticks out in Rama's childhood memory most is the darkness. "Shells were blasting all around us. I could see sparks everywhere and heard the sound of debris flying," she recalls.

Rama is among thousands of students who recently passed the national ninth-grade exam. She scored 3,090 out of a total 3,100 points, the highest score of all UNRWA students in Syria! Like other students, Rama faced daunting challenges of repeated hours of power cuts and exerted tremendous efforts to keep up with her studies. She was used to studying by candlelight most nights or studying on her mother's smartphone. She doesn’t have a computer, tablet or laptop. "Finals week can be a stressful time for any student, but with successful study preparation plans, you can take on any final exam with confidence!" Rama highlighted.

According to Rama hard work is rewarding and nothing matches the feeling of happiness and pride you get when you receive excellent grades. She is confident that her success is a result hard work and a quality education and attributes her achievements to support from her teachers, her school principal and her mother. “All were very supportive. My school principal and teachers were always there to help us and boost our morale. My mother has been my rock since the beginning.  In every step of my life, she supported and encouraged me," Rama said.

Rama meets with Amanya Michael-Eye, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria. © 2022 UNRWA Photo by  Taghrid Mohammad
Rama meets with Amanya Michael-Eye, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria. © 2022 UNRWA Photo by  Taghrid Mohammad

Thanks to UNRWA, Rama was able to attend catch up lessons at the beginning of the school year which kept her from falling behind. She also participated in the UNRWA support classes which helped her prepare for the ninth-grade exam. The classes were devoted to review all subject materials, answer students’ questions and allow teachers to address student concerns.

Her mother and teachers describe Rama as diligent student, despite the odds and the prolonged displacement. She is determined to thrive in her studies and succeed to fulfil her dreams to be a dentist. "Education is hope. It will help me in achieving my future goals,” Rama says. 

Emphasizing the importance of providing quality education and effective teaching in improving educational outcomes for Palestine refugee students, Amanya Michael-Eye, Director of UNRWA Affairs, said: "We are pleased to see a high percentage of students scoring excellent grades in the ninth-grade national exam. " The performance of UNRWA grade nine students in Syria has been improving in recent years with a 78 per cent pass rate in 2017, increasing to 85 per cent in 2019, 90 per cent in 2020 and 2021 and 94.3 per cent in 2022.  "We are proud of our students who, despite the severity of displacement, continue to excel and make us proud,” Amanya adds.

Thanks to donors like Kuwait Fund, UNRWA is able to provide quality, equitable and inclusive education to Palestine refugee children in Syria.