Education to Palestinian refugee children
By Frosse Dabit (20.02.2013)
– The partnership between UNRWA and NRC is crucial in the work of ensuring education to Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, says NRCs Country Director of Lebanon, Mads Almaas.
In January this year, Almaas opened the first ever UNRWA/NRC regional meeting. The meeting took place in Jordan and aimed at reviewing the UNRWA/NRC cooperation since the signing of the regional Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of education, September 2011. The MoU aims to support the provision of quality education to Palestine refugee children in Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, West Bank and Jordan.
NRCs cooperation with UNRWA started even before the signed MoU in 2011. In Lebanon it began in 2009 with the Listening Schools Programme followed by the Communicating Schools Programme in Lebanon and Jordan in 2010. In Gaza in 2010 the programme started Our Communities and Or Schools, the latter expanding to the West Bank in 2012. The MoU gives an institutional framework and formalising the partnership.
During the regional meeting the Regional Director of UNRWA Education, Dr. Caroline Pontefract emphasized the good partnership between UNRWA and NRC, and shared the UNRWA Education Reform; its components and achievements to date. She also highlighted the need for further strengthening the UNRWA/NRC partnership and emphasized NRC’s role in bringing expertise, ideas, and new approaches in support of the reform implementation.
The presentation from Dr. Pontefract was highly supported by NRCs Country Director of Lebanon, Mads Almaas.
– In keeping with NRC’s mission statement on the support to the UN system, it is more than evident in the co-operation between UNRWA and NRC in the field of education and support to the on-going Education reform strategy. In light of our respective mandates and mission, sharing the same vision, creates a co-operation where 1+1 is 3, he says, describing the seminar an injection of energy and inspiration to the work.
– The workshop provided a space to take stock of joint and individual achievements in the year lapsed under the current MoU, informing and bringing new momentum to the coming 2, 5 years under the new regional MoU, Almaas continues.
The NRC Global Education advisor, Mr. Dean Brooks highlighted potential areas of support, such as the UNRWA Education Reform implementation, to Education in Emergencies and emphasised that this always will take place through UNRWA established systems and structures.
Future looking bright
The meeting resulted in agreement consensus that NRC will further tailor its activities in support of two key areas; UNRWA Education Reform implementation and education in emergencies. This will be through the support of communities of practice, parental support and community engagement, and student empowerment. The current regional MoU which expires in August 2013 will be renewed along these lines.
NRC Offices in the region will be meeting jointly and then each with their counterpart UNRWA Field Offices to further develop these areas into action plans.
UNRWA is the largest United Nations programme in the Middle East and is the main provider of basic services as – education, health, relief and social services – to 4.8 million registered Palestinian refugees in the region.
UNRWA has provided education to Palestine refugees for over 60 years and the education have been recognised as being equal to, if not better, than that of host countries.
Currently operates UNRWA approximately 700 schools in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and Gaza, providing free basic education for nearly half a million refugee children. Through its education system, UNRWA provides opportunities for Palestine refugee children to thrive, learn in an environment that promotes their rights, imparts a sense of responsibility, and ultimately, achieve their full potentials.
Although the strengths and achievements of the UNRWA education system there have, both within and beyond the agency, been a growing recognition of the need of a reform. This was evidenced in a comprehensive programme review undertaken by an external organisation. In response, UNRWA started a one year consultative process in 2010 resulting in an UNRWA Education Reform Strategy (2011-2015). The Reform focuses on the following substantive areas; teacher development, curriculum and student assessment, inclusive education, and technical and vocational education and training. Furthermore, the following additional support areas have been identified as essential to the implementation of the reform initiative: strategic planning, research, governance, communication, advocacy, and partnerships.
The Education Reform Strategy implementation aims at enhancing the quality of learning through a coherent and integrated approach. The education reform will seek to change classroom practice; that is, the way the teachers teach and how the children are supported in their learning. This is underscored by a forward-looking vision for UNRWA education which aspires to develop the “full potential of Palestine Refugees to enable them to be confident, innovative, questioning, thoughtful, tolerant and open minded, upholding human values and tolerance, proud of their Palestinian identity and contributing positively to the development of their society and the global community”.