Through its Education in Emergencies (EiE) programme, UNRWA helps to ensure that Palestine refugee children, across Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank, can continue to access their right to quality, inclusive and equitable education, even in times of crisis and conflict.
With the increasingly volatile situation in the region - the conflict in Syria, Palestine refugees from Syria fleeing to Jordan and Lebanon, the blockade in Gaza, and ongoing occupation in the West Bank – the delivery of education to Palestine refugees living in times of crisis is a continuous challenge. Here the UNRWA response is to strengthen the UNRWA education system, whilst complementing it with innovative approaches to respond to new and challenging contexts. The UNRWA EiE programme achieves this through: 'doing things differently' (delivering education in alternative ways), 'doing more of other things' (more psychosocial support to children) and 'doing things that had not been the focus before' (safety and security training for students, staff and parents).
In this regard, UNRWA adopts a multi-stranded approach to EiE, to ensure that the response is holistic and meets the needs of children, teachers, and parents:
In light of the negative psychosocial impact of conflict and crisis on children and education staff, the UNRWA EiE response emphasizes the importance of psychosocial support. UNRWA puts additional psychosocial counsellors in place to provide individual and group counselling, recreational and learning activities, and ensures referral of cases to specialized services if required. UNRWA counsellors provide ongoing psychosocial support to children during the school year, as well as through summer recreational activities, to meet the psychosocial needs of both girls and boys. UNRWA also supports the capacity development of its teachers in identifying and responding to students’ diverse needs and providing psychosocial support in the classroom.
To better support the psychosocial counsellors and teachers in providing recreational activities for UNRWA students and promoting the well-being and resilience of children, UNRWA has developed a Recreational Activities Guide that includes a wide range of psychosocial support activities.
UNRWA works to promote the safety and security of its students, education staff and schools. To this effect, safety and security training modules have been developed and the capacity of education staff and students built to help them to better respond in emergencies. School risk assessments and evacuation drills are also regularly carried out in schools. Parents are kept informed about the security measures at school and how they can help to keep their children safe in and on their way to schools.
During emergency situations, education may be interrupted and Palestine refugee children unable to access their regular schools. Some children may be living in collective shelters for internally displaced persons and not have a place to study at home. To help address this disruption to children’s learning, UNRWA has set up safe learning and recreational spaces. These provide a safe, and child-friendly environment, where children can learn and engage in recreational activities, both of which are supported by qualified teachers and specialized psychosocial counsellors.
Learning activities at a Safe Learning Space in Khan Dunnoun, Syria. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Taghrid Mohammad
Boy in Gaza using the Interactive Learning Programme website. © 2017 UNRWA photo by Tamer Hamam
The UNRWA EiE programme also helps in the provision of learning support to help children make up for any lost school time; this is through catch-up classes and summer learning programmes.
The engagement of parents and the wider community is key in times of emergency as, when schools cannot operate, they can play an important role in ensuring the continuation of education at home or in alternative spaces. Parents should also play a key role in emergency preparedness, as well as in recovery after an emergency. Parents are engaged in supporting their children's education through regular parents’ awareness sessions on a variety of topics, including psychosocial support, safety and security and the Self-Learning Programme. The Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) can strengthen the vital link between the school and the community and support contingency planning at the school level.
Students play a key role in every strand of the EiE programme, specifically through the involvement of elected student School Parliaments in any contingency planning for emergencies and with regard to the training of children on safety and security (for example school evacuation). An annual Back to School Campaign encourages students, supported by their parents, to return to school and advocates for the right of Palestine refugee children to education, even in times of crisis.
Parents engaged in recreational activities with their children during the annual Back-to-School Campaign in Gaza.
© 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Sarraj
As part of its EiE programme, UNRWA has developed an animated video for children and families affected by conflict. The video, ‘Education Brings Hope in Times of Emergencies’, encourages families to utilize UNRWA resources and support their children in re-engaging in education during times of crisis.
Learn more about how UNRWA delivers education on the front line for Palestine refugees in Syria.