Special Education in UNRWA schools: ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all

23 February 2016
Moaaz Abu Daher, a Palestine refugee student at an UNRWA school in Gaza. Moaaz believes his disability will never hinder him in completing his studies. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Ibrahim Yaghi

The UNRWA Inclusive Education Policy reaffirms the Agency’s commitment to the realization of the universal right of all children to an education. Inclusive education is an important pillar of the UNRWA Education Programme in Gaza and is closely linked to its Disability Programme.

In the current school year (2015-2016) there are approximately 10,640 persons (6,409 boys and 4,231 girls) with disabilities studying in UNRWA schools in Gaza. These students live with various major motor, fine motor, visual, hearing, health, speech and other impairments. Nonetheless, they are enthusiastic to learn and participate in traditional schooling.

Special Needs students are encouraged to attend UNRWA schools, and the Inclusive Education approach helps them to integrate into mainstream schooling by providing them with extra support. In cases where more specialized support is needed, the Agency refers students to Community-Based Rehabilitation Centres (CBRCs). UNRWA currently supports seven CBRCs across the Gaza Strip, providing services to persons with disabilities, including educational services, to approximately 800 refugee children. Further, the Agency directly supports 132 visually impaired children through the UNRWA Rehabilitation Centre for Visually Impaired in Gaza city. There are also 11 learning support centres in Gaza, each of which provide special services to children in need.

Fourteen year old Moaaz Abu Daher is one of fifteen children with special needs attending an UNRWA school in Deir el Balah. In addition to receiving inclusive teaching methods in the classroom, the students receive psychosocial support and appropriate health and medical resources. 

Moaaz is a keen footballer and enjoys playing sports with his friends at school. He also has a prosthetic leg, having had his leg amputated due to bone cancer. He believes his disability will never hinder him in his sports and study.

Some UNRWA students also receive speech therapy lessons at home; their parents are provided with information and awareness on special needs. UNRWA teachers have also been trained on the Inclusive Education approach in order to enable them to identify and respond to the diverse needs of students in a professional manner.

“We try to give the students some stress release activities, such as drawing,” said 46 year old Samir Hamda, a school counselor. “We also conduct awareness-raising sessions on special needs for parents.”

UNRWA’s approach to inclusive education is aligned with the global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, wherein Sustainable Development Goal number four is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning

opportunities for all.” It recognizes that education is essential for the success of all the SDGs.