Letter from the Director of Education

05 October 2020

Dear Colleagues

I am writing to you on the occasion of the World Teachers’ Day, to say a very big thank you to all the UNRWA teachers and to those that support them.

These months since March have seen education impacted across the world on a scale and in a way that has never happened before.  Through this time, you have worked to ensure that each and every Palestine refugee student continued to access their right to quality, inclusive, and equitable education.

We, therefore, mark this World Teachers’ Day, a day which was first celebrated in 1994 by UNESCO to commemorate the 1966 UNESCO/ILO Recommendation on the Status of Teachers, with a theme that recognises your work over these last months. This year’s theme, ‘Teachers: Leading in Crisis, Reimagining the Future’, reflects the challenging times that all of us in education, and especially yourselves, have faced and continue to face.

As I write this, some UNRWA students are back at school in classrooms, maybe in school but their desks more spread out than usual and, of course, following healthy behaviours and practices, whilst others are learning at home, waiting until it is safe enough for them to return to school.  Others are learning both in the classroom with the teacher and at home by themselves. But whichever approach your field is using to deliver education, your role is central to its success.

UNRWA education teams across the Agency, including our team here, at UNRWA headquarters in Amman, have learned so much these last months and we understand even more now. We know the key issues to be addressed for each model and how to monitor to make sure that our students can learn and thrive wherever they are. We have so much more experience, too, in how best to support teachers whatever ‘model’ of schooling, or education, you are delivering.  And here, some of you took part in the Agency-wide Teacher Study so that we could find out more about your reality, your perceptions and your suggestions to do better by you so that you can do the best for our UNRWA students.

We will continue to learn together, but let us take stock today of the achievements so far and to say that, yes, teachers are leaders, but in education we all have to be leaders alongside other leaders.  You are leading in working with the children in or out of the classroom and, in order to take that lead, you have to work alongside your school and deputy school principal, the school counselors, the other staff of the school and the parents and the wider community. Also, to help you lead children’s learning, you will work with the education specialists, the field staff and with us at headquarters.  For the latter, you are able to lead by working collaboratively across the education programme and by having successfully completed the capacity development programmes - such as SBTD - of the last years. You lead through your use of the Curriculum Framework and other tools and by being aware of the UNRWA education policies, such as Inclusive Education, the Human Rights Conflict Resolution and Tolerance (HRCRT) and the Teacher Policy. And, of course, you lead by being involved in the School Quality Assurance process and, crucially, by keeping track of the students, their special needs, their attendance, their performance and their well-being.

So, today we celebrate your achievements, your commitment and your creativity.  You are not alone, as across the globe teachers in many countries are also facing the same challenges of uncertainty in addition to other challenges.   Here at UNRWA we have the additional challenges of financial instability. But, with your efforts and experiences, UNRWA is able to proudly stand up and share what we are doing and to advocate - globally and regionally - for more support so that we can continue to deliver quality, equitable and inclusive education to all UNRWA students.

On this, the World Teachers’ Day of 2020, UNRWA says THANK YOU all its teachers and assures you of continued support as we live through these new realities.

Very best wishes to you all and a Happy World Teachers’ Day!

Dr Caroline Pontefract

Director of Education

Background Information: 

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s programme budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals. UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.