UNRWA Opens Schools in Syria for over 51,000 Palestine refugee girls and boys

23 September 2019
Students at the UNRWA al-Majdal-Haifa School in Damascus, Syria. © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Taghrid Mohammad.

This school year, 51,000 Palestine refugee girls and boys have gone back to 103 schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Syria. UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl visited Syria from 14 to 16 September and took part in an event to celebrate high achievers at Agency schools in Damascus and surrounding rural areas. He also attended a ‘Back to School’ event at the UNRWA al-Majdal-Haifa School in Damascus, where he met student parliamentarians, teachers and staff.

“By honouring high performing students, we are honouring each and every Palestine refugee girl and boy who studies in UNRWA schools in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza,” said Mr. Krähenbühl. “You are all part of a network, a family of students and every high achiever I met today is a source of pride to me, to the Agency and to all students in UNRWA schools.”

A total of 42 UNRWA schools in Syria underwent maintenance work during the summer to prepare them to receive the students in time, especially as some of these premises had formerly been used as collective shelters for internally displaced persons fleeing the armed conflict. Where the Agency’s schools were destroyed or heavily damaged, afternoon school shifts have been taking place in 41 schools provided by the Government of Syria, to enable all UNRWA students to attend classes.

For nearly 70 years, UNRWA has safeguarded the right to education for Palestine refugee children and has provided inclusive and quality education to some 2.5 million students who have graduated from the Agency’s schools since the 1950s.

“Your outstanding academic achievement is a testament to your commitment, hope and aspiration for a better future.  We are proud of your remarkable success despite the severity of the displacement and hardship many of you have all lived through.  We are here to recognize your unlimited efforts, resolve, and resilience.  You should be proud of being Palestine refugees and are a source of inspiration to others,” Krähenbühl said.

During his visit Mr. Krähenbühl held meetings with senior government officials, including H.E. Foreign Minister Mr. Walid Al-Mouallem, H.E. Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Faisal Meqdad, the Director of the General Authority for Palestinian Arab Refugees (GAPAR) Mr. Ali Mustafa and the Governor of Dera’a province Mr. Khaled al Hanous. He thanked them all for their strong cooperation with UNRWA and for the facilitation of the Agency’s work, including through making schools available for use by UNRWA in afternoon shifts. In Dera’a, the Commissioner-General met with representatives from the Palestine refugee community and received very strong words of recognition from them for the work accomplished by the Agency during the most critical years of the conflict in Syria. In Damascus and Dera’a, Mr. Krähenbühl met with UNRWA staff members, paid tribute to those of them who have lost their lives or have disappeared during the conflict, and thanked all colleagues for their extraordinary contribution, dedication and hard work.