This school year, 51,000 Palestine refugee girls and boys have gone back to 103 schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Syria. UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl visited Syria from 14 to 16 September and took part in an event to celebrate high achievers at Agency schools in Damascus and surrounding rural areas. He also attended a Back to School event at the UNRWA al-Majdal-Haifa School in Damascus, where he met student parliamentarians, teachers and staff.
“By honouring high performing students, we are honouring each and every Palestine refugee girl and boy who studies in UNRWA schools in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza,” said Mr. Krähenbühl. “You are all part of a network, a family of students and every high achiever I met today is a source of pride to me, to the Agency and to all students in UNRWA schools.”
A total of 42 UNRWA schools in Syria underwent maintenance work during the summer to prepare them to receive the students in time, especially as some of these premises had formerly been used as collective shelters for internally displaced persons fleeing the armed conflict. Where the Agencys schools were destroyed or heavily damaged, afternoon school shifts have been taking place in 41 schools provided by the Government of Syria, to enable all UNRWA students to attend classes.
For nearly 70 years, UNRWA has safeguarded the right to education for Palestine refugee children and has provided inclusive and quality education to some 2.5 million students who have graduated from the Agencys schools since the 1950s.
“Your outstanding academic achievement is a testament to your commitment, hope and aspiration for a better future. We are proud of your remarkable success despite the severity of the displacement and hardship many of you have all lived through. We are here to recognize your unlimited efforts, resolve, and resilience. You should be proud of being Palestine refugees and are a source of inspiration to others,” Krähenbühl said.
During his visit Mr. Krähenbühl held meetings with senior government officials, including H.E. Foreign Minister Mr. Walid Al-Mouallem, H.E. Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Faisal Meqdad, the Director of the General Authority for Palestinian Arab Refugees (GAPAR) Mr. Ali Mustafa and the Governor of Deraa province Mr. Khaled al Hanous. He thanked them all for their strong cooperation with UNRWA and for the facilitation of the Agencys work, including through making schools available for use by UNRWA in afternoon shifts. In Deraa, the Commissioner-General met with representatives from the Palestine refugee community and received very strong words of recognition from them for the work accomplished by the Agency during the most critical years of the conflict in Syria. In Damascus and Deraa, Mr. Krähenbühl met with UNRWA staff members, paid tribute to those of them who have lost their lives or have disappeared during the conflict, and thanked all colleagues for their extraordinary contribution, dedication and hard work.
This school year, 51,000 Palestine refugee girls and boys have gone back to 103 schools run by the UNRWA in Syria
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 Agencys 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 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem 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.