550,000 Palestinian refugee children return to UNRWA schools

(Photo: UNRWA)
AMMAN — More than 550,000 Palestine refugee students went back to learning in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 706 schools run by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the agency said in a statement.اضافة اعلان

“We are delighted to welcome children back to school against all odds and amid immense challenges in the region,” said Marta Lorenzo, acting UNRWA director of education.

“Our schools continue to be a safe haven and a sanctuary away from violence and deepening economic crisis,” Lorenzo said. “The standards and quality of education UNRWA offers in schools remain among the highest in the region. The Agency’s provision of inclusive and equitable quality education contributes to social and political stability in the region and provides skills and well-being to Palestine refugee children.”

Children around the world, including Palestine refugee children, continue to face obstacles and challenges to their education, as stipulated at the Transforming Education Summit which concluded Monday. UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini attended.

Palestine refugee children across the region have to often learn in overcrowded classrooms with more than 50 children crammed into one room. Other challenges include insufficient number of teachers, lack of learning space and funding, and psychological distress.

In the Gaza Strip, 132 UNRWA schools were subjected to violence over the past 10 years. Resurgence of conflict and exponential poverty continue to be a threat to children’s education and well-being.

In the past 18 months, 38 incidents of violence were recorded in UNRWA schools in the West Bank, resulting in school closure or evacuation. The West Bank is currently recording the highest levels of violence against civilians (since 2016), among them Palestine refugee children.

In Lebanon, amid the worst economic crisis in recent history, the cost of transportation has increased by over 500 percent, making it almost impossible for many families to send their children to school.

In Syria, many Palestine refugee children were forced to flee during the 11-year ongoing crisis.

In Jordan, the impact of COVID-19 was endured by the most vulnerable children, who were not able to access remote learning for 18 months, while schools were closed.

Jana, a 10-year-old girl from Arroub camp, in the southern occupied West Bank, expressed her happiness to return to school because she missed her friends and teachers, and was happy to see them again. She said “school is like a second home. It’s the only place where we can have fun, learn and meet friends.”

Jana is one of 28,000 UNRWA student parliamentarians. First established in 2001, the UNRWA student parliament was launched as part of the Agency’s Human Rights, Conflict Resolution, and Tolerance Education Program. In 2017, the Agency-wide Student Parliament was established, providing an opportunity for UNRWA students from our five areas of operation to work together and advocate for their rights.

Lorenzo said to prepare children for their role as responsible global citizens, who develop their full potential and make valuable contributions to their communities, “UNRWA has emphasized the importance of education by teaching UN values and the principles of peaceful conflict resolution, non-discrimination, human rights, tolerance, and good citizenship through its program of Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Tolerance.”

“These values are considered an essential element of the UNRWA education system,” added Lorenzo.

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