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UNRWA Announces Education Expert Advisory Group, Global experts support UN Agency to continue providing quality education to Palestine refugee students
Today, as part of its commitment to providing an inclusive and equitable education to refugee children, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), announced the launch of an Education Expert Advisory Group to help ensure the over 550,000 Palestine refugee students UNRWA serves maintain access to quality education. The panel will be composed of globally recognized education experts representing renowned institutions such as UNESCO and the World Bank, among others.
Working in concert with the UNRWA Commissioner-General, Deputy Commissioner-General, and Director of Education, the Advisory Group will provide recommendations and advice on a range of issues of strategic importance, including the digitalization of education, gender equality, and educational planning models.
Despite persistent funding challenges and major disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and last year’s war in Gaza, the Agency has maintained its reputation as a pioneer in refugee service delivery by adapting to challenging circumstances with flexibility. Last year, for instance, the Agency established an innovative digital education initiative, the UNRWA Digital-Learning Platform, to ensure learning continuity even as many Palestine refugee children were unable to physically access their regular schools due to the pandemic, conflicts or other crises.
UNRWA schools have built a reputation for high academic achievement, low drop-out rates, and a commitment to tolerance, human rights, non-discrimination, and gender equality in education. Groundbreaking progress has been achieved in gender parity, with girls making up around 50 percent of UNRWA students from the 1960s onwards. Further, since 1999, UNRWA schools have held elections to form school parliaments comprised entirely of high-performing Palestine refugee students. Those parliaments have been a key vehicle for the promotion of respect for rights, democratic practices and tolerance. The Experts Group will build on this foundation and help ensure sustained access to quality programmes and pedagogical techniques.
A core focus of the new Experts Group will be to assist the UNRWA education programme with its ongoing digital transformation, as access to remote learning systems will contribute to making UNRWA Education more resilient in the face of disruption of physical schooling. The members of the Experts Group will serve for a two-year period.
“The new Advisory Group will bring additional expert guidance to our best-in-class Education Programme,” said the Commissioner-General. UNRWA is immensely proud of its students and strives to continue delivering superior educational services to millions of Palestine refugee children. Guided by our core principles of equity and accessibility, I’m certain that the Agency will meet the education challenges of the 21st century, including those related to digital learning. UNRWA will remain a global model for quality education.”
The Agency’s globally-celebrated Education Programme delivers quality education to roughly 540,000 Palestine refugees across 711 schools today, and has educated an estimated 2.5 million children over the past 70 years. In addition, UNRWA administers eight vocational training centres and two educational science faculties, which educate some 10,000 Palestine refugee youth across the region every year.
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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