Beginning on 4 May, in honour of Global Action Week on Education for All, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) once again joins national and regional educational programmes around the world in considering its progress towards the goals outlined in the Education for All agreement ratified by the worlds governments in 2000.
In 2014, Global Action Week, organized by the Global Campaign for Education, is calling for Equal Right, Equal Opportunity, focusing on the theme of education and disability. Today, approximately 1 billion people in the world have disabilities, of whom 10 per cent are children. They face unique challenges in realizing their right to education.
Ensuring access and inclusiveness for these students is a central tenet of the UNRWA education programme, and was highlighted in a reform process that began in 2011. Too often, educational models for students with disabilities focus exclusively on a medical model. Through its inclusive education policy, UNRWA seeks to address also the attitudinal and environmental barriers to learning and participation. It further acknowledges that meeting the needs of students with special needs 3.6 per cent of UNRWA students is a responsibility to be shared between all teachers, principals and the school communities.
The Agencys recently developed Teacher Toolkit will provide practical support to teachers in identifying and responding to the diverse needs of children, including those with disabilities or learning, psychosocial and health needs. To support teachers in providing an inclusive education, a school-based Student Support Team (SST) will plan for school-based health, psychosocial and learning support. In addition, inclusion is explicitly addressed in the reforms professional-development programmes, such as the School-based Teacher Development programme (SBTD) for all teachers of first through sixth grades and the Leading for the Future courses for head teachers and school principals.
The values of inclusive education are also coming to life in real and tangible ways. UNRWA has developed a tool that will support the schools and teachers in evaluating the textbooks they use in their classrooms, so that teachers can gauge the effectiveness of their materials in reaching all students, regardless of their gender, abilities, disabilities, socioeconomic status, health and psychosocial needs. The UNRWA education reform has also worked to support and motivate the teachers and principals on the ground, with new policies defining clear pathways for career growth and professional support.
In 2014, Global Action Week provides an opportunity to reflect on all that UNRWA and Palestine refugees have accomplished over the past six decades. It is also an important reminder of how vital a high-quality, inclusive education is for students all over the world including nearly half a million young Palestine refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.