UNRWA school children in Jordan go back to learning

01 September 2020
UNRWA Commissioner-General Mr. Philippe Lazzarini (left) meets with Abeer Ihab, a member of the Agency-wide School Parliament, on the first day Back to Learning in Jordan. © 2020 UNRWA photo by Yazan Fares

Today, over 115,000 girls and boys went Back to Learning in the schools of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Jordan. Due to the health crisis, created by the COVID-19 pandemic, UNRWA schools are opening their doors to students in line with the health and safety regulations of the Government of Jordan.  Along with health and safety measures, social distancing - in the corridors, playgrounds and classrooms – is being implemented. With the limited resources of UNRWA, this can be only be achieved through a blended education approach, where classes are split, with half the children learning at home and the other half in school, in rotation.

“I am very happy to attend the first day of school with UNRWA students,” said UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini. “This is not just any ‘Back to School’! This is Back to Learning, despite a global pandemic and a lot of uncertainty and several months of lockdown. But this a moment of celebration: celebrating the perseverance of our students and of our teaching staff. They have never stopped believing in the power of education and have not left anyone behind, even during lockdowns and closures.”

All schools in Jordan, including the ones that UNRWA runs, closed down early in the spring of 2020, in the middle of a school year, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  UNRWA, like the host Government, moved to a distance learning approach, with students accessing education in multiple ways, including through TV learning channels, and online platforms launched by the Jordanian Ministry of Education. The main objective was to keep uninterrupted access to education for Palestine refugee students, despite the challenges imposed by the pandemic.

During the back to school ceremony held in the UNRWA al-Nuzha Elementary School for girls in Amman, Mr. Lazzarini met with young students and had a discussion with Abeer Ihab, who is an elected member of the Agency’s Student Parliament.

“We as UNRWA school parliamentarians have a responsibility towards our peers: we must raise awareness constantly about the need to respect health and safety measures at all times, inside the schools and in our communities, to be able to avoid contracting the virus,” said Abeer. To help the school Parliamentarians do just this, UNRWA Human Rights Conflict Resolution and Tolerance (HRCRT) programme produced a video with age-appropriate guidance to help raise awareness amongst students.

The school children that the Commissioner-General joined today as they went back to learning are part of over 534,000 girls and boys in 711 UNRWA-run schools in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Background Information: 

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 5.6 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.

For more information, please contact:

Sami Mshasha
Director of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)258 90724
Tamara Alrifai
UNRWA Spokesperson
+962 (0)79 090 0140