Yesterday, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) opened its doors to some 36,400 young Palestine refugee children in Lebanon, including some 5,000 Palestine refugee children from Syria, for the first day of the 2017/18 academic year. UNICEF has supported these children and their families with Back-to-school kits containing materials to help them study.
In preparation for the new school year, UNICEF supported UNRWA to provide summer learning activities to 5,277 children in Grades 1 and 2. This year, the two United Nations agencies will provide 100 educational scholarships for Palestine refugee children with special needs to learn in private special education centers. In addition, 180 children will benefit from diagnostic and therapeutic consultations, also with UNICEF assistance. Support from UNICEF is also being provided to improve the learning environment of children by renovating and maintaining UNRWA schools and to ensure learning support to 3,990 children.
The Deputy Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, Gwyn Lewis, said: “It was wonderful to see so many children enjoy the start of the school year today. I am proud of the efforts of UNRWA teachers in supporting the education of Palestine refugee children in Lebanon – especially in helping children to recover from recent fighting in Ein El Hilweh.” With the support of UNICEF civil society partners, UNRWA will provide Palestine refugee children in Ein El Hilweh schools with psychosocial support to help them cope with and overcome the conflict.
To address the low retention rates and improve enrolment rates in UNRWA schools and vocational centres, UNRWA launched an outreach campaign in August 2017, with the support of the European Union’s Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis – The MADAD Fund, and in partnership with UNICEF and NGOs.
“It is my hope that every Palestine refugee child in Lebanon will attend school. UNRWA is still welcoming children who have been out of school and I would like to encourage community members to enroll children in their care,” Ms. Lewis added. “Education gives children hope and joy – and that is what young Palestine refugee children need.”
Ms. Lewis also expressed her gratitude to UNICEF and donors who are making a difference in the lives of these children by supporting their right to education and the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development goals.
Grade 6 student Rand Hamid is happy about going back to Jefna School in Beqaa area. She said: “I’m excited about this new scholastic year. Today, we reunite with our friends and this makes me happy. I love my school. It’s a place where I created unforgettable memories.”
UNICEF’s representative in Lebanon, Tanya Chapuisat, described the day saying: “The tens of thousands of children walking through the school gates today are a reminder of what can be achieved through our collective efforts.” She added that: “We are committed to continue working with all partners to ensure the right to education for all Palestine refugee children is guaranteed in an attempt to alleviate some of the real burdens facing Palestine children and families in Lebanon.”
UNRWA runs 67 schools in Lebanon, representing the main educational system for Palestine refugees here and providing elementary, preparatory and secondary educational services. UNRWA also provides vocational training opportunities to up to 1,200 young men and women in Lebanon every year.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit www.unicef.org
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 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank 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.