"Greet Syria for us": Syrian Palestine Refugees receive UNRWA support in Lebanon but more is needed

UNRWA Education delegation visits Syrian Palestine refugee students at UNRWA schools in Lebanon in light of upcoming Regional Education in Emergencies Forum

18 February 2013
Beirut, Lebanon

UNRWA’s Mazar Preparatory School for boys is located in Beddawi refugee camp in Northern Lebanon. Since the conflict in Syria began, the school has taken on an additional 286 students in its second afternoon shift; Palestine refugees living in Syria whose families sought refugee from the violence there by crossing the border into Lebanon.

Today, a delegation of UNRWA representatives visited two schools in Lebanon hosting Syrian Palestine refugee students. Many of the students come from Yarmouk, but many also came from other parts of Damascus and Syria. Most of them—even those who have only recently arrived—have found a safe environment at Mazar Preparatory School to continue their education thanks to the efforts of a wide range of UNRWA staff in Lebanon, Syria, and at the headquarters level in Amman.

The visit was led by UNRWA’s Chief of Education in Lebanon Dr Walid Khatib, and was organized for UNRWA’s Chief of Education in Syria Dr Mohammed Ammouri, the Director of UNRWA Education Dr Caroline Pontefract, and Education in Emergency Specialist Elin Gjersten.

The Syrian Palestine refugee students were excited to see “their” education chief, Dr. Ammouri, whom they warmly welcomed to their classes. Although happy with the treatment they are receiving in Lebanon, they all expressed their wish to return to Syria as soon as possible. “Please greet Syria for us,” or, “we hope to see you soon in Syria,” were phrases repeated by many of the students.

Dr Ammouri was visibly touched by the reunion with his students. “I am impressed by the ability of the students to adapt to this difficult situation,” he said. “I would like to express my appreciation for colleagues in Lebanon who, with great dedication and flexibility, have extended their support to Syrian Palestine refugees.”

Director of UNRWA Education Dr Caroline Pontefract described how heartened she was by how well the children adapted to their new schools the passion with which they continue to study. “While we have seen that UNRWA is capable of adapting to this challenging situation, we need more support to better prepare the teachers and provide all children with textbooks, stationary, recreational activities and psycho-social support,” she noted.

Only basic subjects are currently taught at Mazar Preparatory School, but school administrators are working to extend this. Although generally satisfied with school conditions in Lebanon, the students spoke about their struggles with the differences between the countries’ curriculum, particularly in English classes. The school administration also expressed a need for more textbooks and stationary.

The visit provided important insights into the situation of Syrian Palestine refugee students in Lebanon and was planned as a lead-in to an upcoming forum organized by UNRWA’s HQ Education programme focusing on education in emergencies in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

Held over the course of two days, the forum is hosted by UNRWA in coordination with representatives from UNESCO and the Norwegian Refugee Counsel. It will bring together key actors in the delivery of education to those affected by the Syrian crisis, including UNHCR, UNICEF Syria/Lebanon, and Save the Children.

The main objective of the forum is to support UNRWA Field offices affected by the Syrian crises to assess, coordinate, plan and implement an effective education response in line with the UNRWA Regional Framework for Education in Emergencies.

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