Op-Ed by Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, Ann Dismorr
Education is the basis of human development and is particularly important for vulnerable refugee communities for whom education offers life changing opportunities. This is why UNRWA invests more than half of its budget on the education of Palestinian refugees, giving them the tools to improve their lot and aspire for a better future.
This is even more relevant to UNRWA in Lebanon where Palestinian refugees live in extremely dire conditions and are faced with multiple challenges, particularly the right to work and the right to own property. UNRWA’s 69 schools represent the only haven for Palestinian children to pursue education at all levels and enjoy recreational activities throughout the summer.
However, this corner stone of our mandate would be under threat if some Palestinian Refugees from Syria turn them into accommodation centers as some have proposed. URNWA recognizes that there is a significant lack of accommodation that must be met to the best extent possible, but there is no easy solution considering the magnitude of this humanitarian crisis and the influx of over forty thousand Palestine refugees from Syria. Such a move would threaten the education not just of increasing numbers of refugee children from Syria, but also of more than 32,000 students of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon.
Moreover, many of the children of Palestine refugees from Syria have already missed between one and two years of their education. They have suffered enough. They should not lose anymore of their education.
Meanwhile, UNRWA is sparing no effort to assist Palestine refugees from Syria by providing them with some cash assistance towards housing when the funds are made available. We will remain steadfast in this mission.
At the same time, UNRWA is rehabilitating unused buildings and other premises within the camps to turn them into collective centers. UNRWA is also discussing with all Palestinian factions and leaders the possibility of establishing more temporary housing units within the camps.
All involved should fully share the commitment and responsibility of ensuring our children’s education. To the community leaders, refugee representatives and parents I say that the future of a whole generation is at stake. Let us all join hands to safeguard the right to education to all Palestinian students in Lebanon.