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Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
12 August 2016

12 August 2016

تعزيز التعليم النوعي الشامل والجامع لأطفال اللاجئين الفلسطينيين: برنامج التربية في سوريا يعقد مؤتمره السنوي

On 8 and 9 August, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Syria Field Education Programme held its annual conference in Damascus to reflect on its achievements in promoting quality education to Palestine refugee children in Syria despite the significant challenges being faced.

The conference brought together 150 UNRWA teachers, school principals and education support staff from across Syria. The opening session was attended by a number of senior staff from the Ministry of Education, the General Authority for Palestine Arab Refugees (GAPAR) and UNICEF. UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl opened the Conference with a speech that reflected his admiration for the work of the UNRWA Syria team and their determination to continue to deliver education in these very difficult circumstances. He described how the work going on in Syria through the Agency’s Education in Emergencies programme is becoming regionally and globally renowned and mentioned a few key events he had participated in where he had described this work. He thanked the Director of Education and her team for their continued support and energy towards ensuring quality education for UNRWA students of Syria.

Ali Mustafa, Director-General of the General Authority for Palestinian Arab Refugees (GAPAR), thanked the Syrian Ministry of Education for their continued support to UNRWA and Palestine refugees, noting the use by UNRWA of 55 governmental schools to host Palestine refugee children. He also emphasized the achievements of the Education Reform and the aspirations of the Medium Term Strategy (MTS) 2016-2021 and highlighted the importance of education continuing for Palestine refugees regardless of the challenges. He talked of the soon-to-be departure of Michael Kingsley-Nyinah, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria, commending him for his work in supporting the Palestine refugees of Syria over these last years.

After the opening, the Director of Education, Caroline Pontefract, and the Chief of the Field Education Programme, Samir Abdelrahim, provided the technical framework for the two-day discussions. The Director emphasized the importance of viewing the education programme in Syria holistically, combining strengths of the programme, drawing on the education reform and using innovative practices to meet new challenges. She set the scene for the two days wherein participants would reflect on the achievements, challenges and their implications for future planning. 

Discussions throughout the conference focused on the different strands of the delivery of the education programme, from the reform programmes still being implemented to the specific responses to special needs when delivering education in emergencies. The two days provided the space for this reflection, and there was consensus on the need to continue to embed and build upon the reform programme, policies and practices as the Agency moves into the period of the 2016-2021 MTS. Participants discussed concrete steps to achieve the Agency’s commitment to provide quality, equitable and inclusive education for Palestine refugees.

Throughout the discussions, there was much emphasis on the importance of providing psychosocial support to all children, through active learning, as well as through recreational and fun activities.  Similarly the importance of professional development for teachers was highlighted and the need for the teachers themselves to be fully supported by each other, by their school principal and through the support of the education specialists and the new strategic support units was stressed.
This annual conference is an important opportunity for educationalists to come together, to feel part of a professional community, to reflect on their work and the challenges they face, and to be commended on their continued dedication and hard work throughout the year.


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, projected for 2016 to stand at US$ 74 million. 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 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank 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 .

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
+972 (0)54 240 2659
+972 (0)2 589 0267

Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)2 589 0724

Najwa Sheikh Ahmad
Acting Public Information Officer - Gaza Field Office
+972 597 920 542
+972 8 2887 488

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