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Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
12 May 2010

Ceremony to mark the adoption of Beit Lahia School Remarks by the UNRWA Commissioner-General, Mr Filippo Grandi

Gaza, 12 May 2010

I am delighted to be presiding over this ceremony to mark the adoption of the Beit Lahia School by the Khalifa Bin Zayed Foundation.

What we are marking in particular is the renaming of this school for its benefactor. The school thus becomes the “Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan School, Beit Lahia”.

At the same time this is an occasion to remember Asil Deeb, 10, Baraa Shalha, 6, Bayan Kheleif, 11, and Hani El Selawi, 6, pupils at this school who very sadly died in the first weeks of January 2009 when the Gaza Strip, including this school, which was a place of shelter for 1,800 terrified people, was shelled. I ask for a minute’s silence as we remember the dead, and the students and others connected with the school who were injured.

We are very grateful to the Khalifa Bin Zayed Foundation and its Patron, Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, for their generous donation which is making this adoption a reality.

What exactly does “adoption” mean? It means that the Foundation will over the next year share to a large degree with the Agency the heavy burden of the costs of running a big school like this one. It will also mean that the school will be able to do some things which would otherwise have been unaffordable. It can now buy a number of computers. School uniforms can be provided. Hygiene kits will be bought. More recreational activities can be carried out.

I am particularly pleased with this new partnership because it shows in a very tangible and direct way how our Agency can work with Arab partners to give Palestinian refugee children a decent education, and to overcome the handicaps which come of being born a Palestinian refugee. Because education is at the core of what our Agency does. And it is an area where unfortunately, for lack of funds, we have been struggling to maintain standards. It was already difficult to maintain standards before Gaza was attacked 15 months ago and restrictions on access tightened. Repairing our schools, equipping our schools, staffing our schools with properly trained teachers, have all become more difficult. Building new schools, which is what we most need, is impossible.

That is why we say “Thank you, Shaikh Khalifa”, from the bottom of our hearts.

At the same time we say thank you for all the magnificent support which the UAE is giving to UNRWA in other ways, through the government and through highly active humanitarian organisations like the UAE Red Crescent and Dubai Cares.

I would like to add that we have other schools, health centres too, which are available for adoption. To name just a few we have Al Fakhoora School, Jabalia, which also witnessed major violence during the attack on Gaza, Shejayia Preparatory Boys School and the Sabra Health Centre in Gaza City. I hope that when other benefactors see what we have done today with the Khalifa Bin Zayed Foundation they will also step forward.

Thank you.

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