Events were held throughout the Agency's five fields of operations. The UNRWA school system is one of the largest in the Middle East, with over 700 schools and 22,000 educational staff providing a high-quality, free-of-charge basic education to some 500,000 young Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The global theme for World Teachers' Day 2013 was 'A call for teachers!' At the ceremony in Amman, UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General Margot Ellis used the opportunity to highlight the crucial role of UNRWA teachers in educating Palestine refugee children. Anna Segall, Acting Director of UNRWA Operations in Jordan, also stressed the importance of high-quality teaching, as well as continued learning, self-improvement and development for teachers themselves, to build their capacity, and, through them, that of the Agency's education system.
Professor Jihad Hamdan, Chief of the UNRWA education programme in Jordan, said that teachers were change agents. "They contribute to shaping the minds and the future of our children. Our objective is to empower UNRWA teachers through innovative programmes helping them make the huge difference we expect in our schools," he said. Professor Hamdan added that "without well-trained, open-minded and dedicated teachers, quality education will remain a dream and a slogan for many years to come."
UNRWA Director of Education Dr Caroline Pontefract discussed the Agency's education reform, launched in 2011, and its many achievements. "Our teachers are our most important resource," she noted. "Through this reform, we have worked hard to support them with innovative teacher training programmes and an Agency-wide Teacher Policy, which provides greater opportunities for career progression and enhanced professionalism."
At the Amman Training Centre, a collection of World Teachers' Day posters provided a visual celebration of UNRWA teachers and their work, and an awards ceremony for teachers was also held. Attendees were also able to take a closer look at some of the reform programme's tangible products, including teacher-training packages for School-Based Teacher Development and teacher toolkits for initiatives including Leading for the Future, Inclusive Education and Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Tolerance. Folklore and music performances by Palestine refugee students provided a fitting finale to the event.
World Teachers' Day was inaugurated on 5 October 1994 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to commemorate the signing, in 1966, of the UNESCO/ILO Recommendation on the Status of Teachers. The day aims to celebrate teachers and their central role in guiding children, young people and adults through the lifelong learning process.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 54.3 million.
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