This week, 46,000 Palestine refugee girls and boys began the 2019-2020 scholastic year in the 96 schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Students at the Silwan Girls’ School in East Jerusalem were particularly excited to go to school, not only to see their friends, but also because their school, as many others, was renovated over the summer holidays with generous support from the Saudi Fund for Development.
“Opening the new school year in Silwan was an important moment for a community of Palestine refugees who otherwise see little hope on the horizon. UNRWA activities serve as an anchor and provide some stability in their lives,” said UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl, who joined the pupils of the Silwan Girls’ School today. “Education lies at the very heart of the UNRWA mandate and the children I met today are a powerful reminder that this investment is absolutely essential.”
For nearly 70 years, UNRWA has safeguarded the right to education for Palestine refugee children and has provided inclusive and quality education, including during times of conflict, blockade and occupation. Many students – including those living in the Silwan area – regularly witness clashes with security forces and tensions as a result of the increasing presence of settlers and settler organizations. This return to school is also a symbol of preserving normalcy and a safe learning environment.
Some 2.5 million students have graduated from UNRWA schools since the 1950s. Through its education system, the Agency aims to ensure that Palestine refugee students develop their full potential and become confident, innovative, questioning, thoughtful and open-minded, to uphold human values and tolerance, and to contribute positively to the development of society and the global community. Through this investment in human capital, made possible by the remarkable support from its donors and partners, UNRWA has also contributed significantly towards generating opportunities and employment.
“During every visit to an UNRWA school in the West Bank and East Jerusalem one is impressed by the unique commitment of Palestine refugees to education and the acquisition of knowledge,” said Mr Krähenbühl. “Despite the considerable adversity they face, many of the students are high achievers and show great courage in the pursuit of learning. Their families are proud of them and we are humbled by their steadfastness. We are also deeply grateful to UNRWA school principals, teachers, counselors and many others who worked hard to prepare the new scholastic year and to ensure our schools will remain open.”