Ein El Hilweh refugee camp is home to thousands of Palestine refugees, making it the biggest camp of its kind in Lebanon. The UNRWA Rafidia Preparatory Girls’ School, located near the camp, provides education to over 600 Palestine refugees.
Wafa Al Saadi, a Palestine refugee originating from the northern Palestinian town of Acre, has been teaching the Arabic language at the Rafida School since 2006. Education represents the only viable way for Palestine refugees to improve their lives and build a better future. Wafa explains, “The conditions we face here in the camps are extremely harsh. Our future is uncertain and our situation is fragile. Education is our only hope.” Her story illuminates the current situation faced by so many Palestine refugees in Lebanon.
This is especially true for young refugee women. Equipped with an education, women can seek employment, gain economic mobility and achieve greater independence. This message hit home for Wafa when her husband passed away suddenly and she was left to support her three children alone. “Suddenly felt the weight of responsibility fall onto my shoulders. While I grieved the loss of my husband and I was also extremely anxious about the future of my children. It was a desperate situation but my life reached a turning point once I found a job.”
Wafa’s first-hand account of her difficulties are similar to those facing so many Palestine refugee women. This makes the work of UNRWA vital in Palestine refugee communities in Lebanon. Wafa makes every effort to be a great role model to her students and to emphasize the central importance of education in her success. When one of her classes averaged close to 100 per cent on their Arabic examinations, she knew her efforts had paid off, “My proudest moment was when I saw the joy on my students’ faces after the exam! They worked so hard and I’m very proud of our achievement.”
The situation currently facing Palestine refuges in Lebanon is characterized by instability and uncertainty. Camps like Ein El Hilweh are seriously overcrowded. This puts pressure on infrastructure and agitates social frictions. The situation in the camp has intensified over recent years as a result of new camp residents fleeing the Syrian crisis. The security situation in the camp is unstable, with clashes between armed factions reoccurring inside frequently over recent years. UNRWA services, such as schools like Rafidia, are instrumental in maintaining stability, as they provide structure in the lives of youth, in addition to giving them the means to work towards a brighter future.
With the funding crisis that is currently faced by UNRWA, fears ran high amongst students and teachers at Rafidia, as rumors spread that schools might close circulated. Qatar fund for development and education above all on behalf of the state of Qatar however, remains as steadfast supporter of the Agency’s education programme. Schools like the UNRWA Rafidia Girls’ School, are open thanks to the generous support of donor partners like Qatar fund for development and education above all on behalf of the state of Qatar. The Government of Qatar exemplified their continued interest in the stability of Ein El Hilweh refugee camp and Lebanon more generally through their generous contribution to the Agency in 2018. As Wafa puts it, “I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported us. I feel especially humbled by Qatar’s generosity. Education is a sacred and fundamental right and they’re decision to support us really means a lot.”