With their numbers swelled by the flow of refugees from Syria, tens of thousands of Palestinian children in Lebanon returned to school for the 2013/14 school year today with new learning and other materials provided by the United Nations and the European Union (EU).
“Despite the challenging situation, education must remain one of our top priorities, helping to safeguard the future of Palestine refugee children,” said Ann Dismorr, the Director for Lebanon of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
“We have seen the enrolment rate of Palestine refugee students from Syria double over the past weeks,” she told a ceremony at the Nablus Preparatory School for Girls in Sidon, south Lebanon, where the children received new ‘Back-to-School’ kits from UNRWA, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the EU, containing stationery items to be used throughout the school year.
Some 40,000 students from 69 UNRWA schools across Lebanon, including 7,000 refugees displaced by the civil war raging in Syria, will receive the kits. UNRWA set up in 1949 after the foundation of Israel, provides education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance to 5 million registered Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Ms. Dismorr thanked UNICEF for four consecutive years of support for UNRWA education in Lebanon. The UNICEF contribution of $280,000 ensures that the children “are provided with a positive environment and school materials,” she said.
“As in all emergencies, bringing children back to school as soon as possible is one of the best ways to mitigate the psychosocial impact of conflict and displacement,” UNICEF representative Annamaria Laurini said. “We are all committed to putting the most vulnerable children at the core of everything we do. This initiative today is evidence of our collective effort to ensure that the rights of all Palestine refugee children are protected.”
EU representative Marcello Mori said the EU’s recent contribution of 6 million Euros ($8.2 million) will cover the costs of educating the Palestinian refugee children from Syria.
Since 2005, the EU had provided 23.9 million Euros ($32.5 million) in support of UNRWA’s education programme. As one of the largest UNRWA partners in education and health for children, UNICEF has provided $1.03 million since 2011 for learning support activities, including the back-to-school kits. Education, protection and health assistance has totalled nearly $1.2 million in 2013 alone.