Through its Education in Emergencies (EiE) programme, UNRWA has been actively working to ensure access to quality education for Palestine Refugees affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria, both for children in Syria and for those who have fled to neighboring countries, particularly Lebanon and Jordan.
In the Gaza Strip, restoring a sense of normalcy for children after the 2014 conflict with Israel has been a top priority for our education team. 500 children were killed during the conflict and 3,000 were injured, of which the UN estimated at the time 1,000 will have some form of physical disability for the rest of their lives. 81 UNRWA schools were damaged during the conflict and over 90 served as shelters for up to 290,000 displaced people.
The Agency’s Education in Emergencies response includes the provision of psychosocial support, survival skills and alternative learning modalities. The programme also provides staff and school children in higher risk areas with knowledge and tools to support their safety and better enable the effective delivery of education services.
The effectiveness of the EiE response is due to the dedication of education staff and the adoption of a holistic and integrated three phased approach. Through this approach children are given the support they need to continue their education despite the on-going crisis. It includes the following:
In order to meet the increasing psychosocial needs of the affected Palestine refugee children from Syria, UNRWA has recruited and trained Psychosocial Counsellors and additional School Counsellors. The counsellors not only give individual support to Palestine refugee children, but also conduct recreational activities in UNRWA schools. The recreational activities are primarily play and learning activities, but there are also behavioural and emotion group-based games, which help to support healing and recovery and identify children who need further support.
In the aftermath of the 2014 Gaza conflict, UNRWA employed hundreds of psychosocial counsellors who worked round the clock to deal with the parents, with the children, with families as a whole who were emerging from a conflict that has taken such a tragic physical and psychological toll.
The ongoing violence in Syria means that many Palestine refugee children live in shelters, or far away from schools and are unable to access their regular schools. To give these children continued access to quality education, UNRWA has set up 21 Safe Learning Spaces and recreational playgrounds in communities and shelters across Syria. These safe spaces provide a protected and child-friendly environment for children to learn and engage in recreational activities, supported by qualified supervisors and specialised psychosocial counsellors. Additionally, Learning Resource Centers in UNRWA schools have been upgraded in Jordan and Lebanon so that they are now able to host learning and recreational activities for Palestine refugees.
The UNRWA’s Education programme has also developed Self-Learning materials (Grades 1-9) to address the basic skills and concepts of the core subjects of the Syrian curriculum. The programme is designed to support children who cannot regularly access school, and includes the following innovative online and offline learning tools:
The innovative UNRWA Satellite TV Channel, which was developed and lunched by UNRWA staff in Gaza, has proved to be an indispensable EiE tools for children from both Syria and Gaza. The channel’s 11-person production team works with 24 UNRWA teachers from Gaza and Syria who are selected and trained on an annual basis to develop and present lessons. In addition to the broadcast of lessons covering the core subjects of English, Maths, Arabic and Science for Grades 4-9, in cooperation with the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), UNRWA TV has produced a programme to raise awareness of and mitigate risks associated with unexploded ordnance (UXO) in both the Gaza Strip and Syria.
The EiE programme has also launched a new animated video for children and families affected by conflict as part of its Education in Emergencies programme. 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 conflict.
Finally, in order to deliver safe and secure quality education services to Palestine refugees, the UNRWA EiE team has developed a safety and security component. This will promote safety and resilience in UNRWA school communities, protect children and education staff, and strengthen conflict prevention and disaster resilience through education.