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More than half a million Palestine refugee children go back to UNRWA schools
UNRWA schools a safe haven for children amid deepening economic crises, violence and resurgence of conflict.
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AMMAN : During the month of September, more than 550,000 Palestine refugee students went back to learning in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 706 schools of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
“We are delighted to welcome children back to school against all odds and amid immense challenges in the region. Our schools continue to be a safe haven and a sanctuary away from violence and deepening economic crisis. The standards and quality of education UNRWA offers in schools remain among the highest in the region. The Agency’s provision of inclusive and equitable quality education contributes to social and political stability in the region and provides skills and well-being to Palestine refugee children,” said Marta Lorenzo, Acting UNRWA Director of Education.
Children around the world, including Palestine refugee children, continue to face obstacles and challenges to their education, as stipulated at the Transforming Education Summit concluding today, at which UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini, is participating. Palestine refugee children across the region have to often learn in overcrowded classrooms with more than 50 children in a classroom. Other challenges include insufficient number of teachers, lack of learning space and funding and psychological distress.
- In the Gaza Strip, 132 UNRWA schools were subjected to violence over the past 10 years. Resurgence of conflict and exponential poverty continue to be a threat to children’s education and well-being.
- In the past 18 months, 38 incidents of violence were recorded in UNRWA schools in the West Bank, resulting in school closure or evacuation. The West Bank is currently recording highest levels of violence against civilians (since 2016), among them Palestine refugee children.
- In Lebanon, amid the worst economic crisis in recent history, the cost of transportation has increased by over 500 per cent, making it almost impossible for many families to send their children to school.
- In Syria, many Palestine refugee children were forced to flee during the 11-year ongoing crisis.
- In Jordan, the impact of COVID-19 was endured by the most vulnerable children who were not able to access remote learning for 18 months while schools were closed.
Jana, a 10-year-old girl from Arroub camp, in the southern occupied West Bank, expressed her happiness to return to school because she missed her friends and teachers, and was happy to see them again. She says, “School is like a second home. It’s the only place where we can have fun, learn and meet friends.”
Jana is one of 28,000 UNRWA student parliamentarians. First established in 2001, the UNRWA student parliament was launched as part of the Agency’s Human Rights, Conflict Resolution, and Tolerance Education Programme. In 2017, the Agency-wide Student Parliament was established, providing an opportunity for UNRWA students from our five areas of operation to work together and advocate for their rights.
“To prepare children for their role as responsible global citizens who develop their full potential and make valuable contributions to their communities, UNRWA has emphasized the importance of education by teaching UN values and the principles of peaceful conflict resolution, non-discrimination, human rights, tolerance and good citizenship through its programme of Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Tolerance. These values are considered an essential element of the UNRWA education system,” added Lorenzo.
In line with global trends towards digital transformation and improved accessibility and connectivity, UNRWA is striving to respond to students’ needs by introducing digitization and modernization. We recently launched an Information and Communications Technology in Education (ICT4E) Strategy. As part of this strategy, the Agency is working to bridge the digital gap by providing tablets to children, increased access to the internet and software development skills to afford them a competitive edge they need to join local, regional and global job markets
“I wish our students, teachers and education staff a successful and peaceful year ahead. UNRWA is committed to provide Palestine refugee children with their right to quality education. It is the key to a brighter and prosperous future,” concluded Lorenzo.
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Notes to Editors
- UNRWA has nearly 20,000 education staff across its five areas of operations.
- UNRWA is the only UN agency that runs an entire school system. The first UNRWA schools were opened in 1950. We currently have 706 schools in 58 refugee camps and communities across the region. In addition, UNRWA runs eight vocational training centres across the region.
- This April, UNRWA launched the Digital Learning Platform (DLP), which provides online learning material to over half a million Palestine refugee students, including in times of emergencies or distance-learning. It is the only online source for UNRWA-approved learning materials, featuring games, apps and tutorials to engage in an interactive and innovative digital learning space and has been recognized by the UNESCO-led Global Education Coalition as a good practice
- While UNRWA relentlessly works to provide all Palestine refugee children in the region with quality education, the Agency is facing severe funding shortages. UNRWA requires sustainable and predictable funding for all its programmes and projects including education, the Agency’s largest programme.
- School parliaments are part of the UNRWA efforts to safeguard quality education for Palestine refugee children, including in challenging humanitarian space and in times of emergency, in line with UN humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence and Sustainable Development Goal 4.
- In the 19 Palestine refugee camps across the West Bank, the number of injuries are at the highest levels since 2014, with multiple injuries to Palestine refugee children recorded.
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 5.7 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.
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