Inclusive education at UNRWA is about ensuring that all Palestine refugee children, regardless of their gender, abilities, disabilities, social-economic status, health and psychosocial needs, have equal opportunity to learn in UNRWA schools and be supported to develop their full potential in UNRWA schools. Inclusive education is about changing the way teachers teach, and how school principals, support staff and administrators work. It is also about changing attitudes.
UNRWA developed an inclusive education policy and strategy to embed an inclusive approach, and reflect the Agency-wide commitment to inclusive education. The policy defines inclusive education as:
UNRWA Inclusive Education Policy and the Inclusive Education Strategy provide an Agency wide, unified framework and strategic approach which supports UNRWA schools in all its five fields in moving towards inclusive education. The Inclusive Education Strategy seeks to mainstream inclusive education into the existing structures and systems of the Education programme through three strategic dimensions: the first dimension focuses on inclusive approach for all children, the second focuses on additional support, and the third dimension focuses on developing support systems for extensive needs.
A strategic approach means recognizing and removing any barriers that can hinder students’ access, learning, development and participation. It is about asking questions such as: Is our school a safe and violence-free environment? Are all students feeling welcome in my classroom? Can I do something to improve my teaching methods to make learning easier?
The approach will further promote inclusive, child friendly, healthy, safe and stimulating school environments where practices in classrooms are more responsive to the diverse needs. Teachers are expected to carry out ongoing informal assessments, observation and information gathering to identify the learning, psychosocial and health needs of a student. It also means utilizing data which is generated from different systems for responsive plans that are applicable to different levels.
The Conceptual Framework for Psychosocial Support for UNRWA schools was developed to further establish a shared understanding of how the education system can support the psychosocial well-being of students. The framework emphasises how schools can provide child-friendly environments that foster psychosocial well-being and meet the psychosocial needs of Palestine refugee children.
The framework aims to guide counselors and educators to apply the inclusive approach to holistic, comprehensive, rights-based, child-centered, and enabling psychosocial support, within UNRWA’s education system which is aligned with the Agency’s Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Framework. It is intended to help counselors and educators foster inclusive learning environments by enabling them to better understand the psychosocial needs and the well-being of the children.
Developed in close collaboration with the Health department and all fields, the School Health Strategy (SHS) addresses four core areas to promote the healthy development of a student: comprehensive health services; a child-friendly, safe and healthy environment; health education; and healthy nutrition and canteens. The strategy offers guidance as to how to provide students with the necessary skills and knowledge to reduce health risks associated with poverty, high population density and poor living conditions and malnutrition.
The Teacher Guide for Gender Sensitive Classroom Practices will support teachers in how to recognize, and address practices and attitudes that may lead to bias and discrimination. All UNRWA teachers can use this guide as a support tool in their daily work.
Advocacy is needed at all levels to facilitate and strengthen awareness of the inclusive education
approach. Existing practices and regulations continue to be reviewed to ensure that they address and support students’ health and well-being.