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UNHCR handovers three schools under RAHA programme to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government

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UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner. Mr. George Okoth-Obbo inaugurating on the schools under RAHA programme in Haripur on Friday. © UNHCR/A.Shahzad

HARIPUR: As part of the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA) initiative, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) completed a two-year RAHA education project in the refugee hosting area of the Kalabat Township, district Haripur. The project, funded by the Federal Republic of Germany through KfW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau) Development Bank, has strengthened the existing infrastructure and expanded the capacity of three government schools resulting in an overall increase of 28 per cent in student enrolment (boys and girls including 82 per cent Pakistani and 18 per cent refugee students) during 2015.

The project, worth around PKR 33 million was implemented by UNHCR partner, Pakistan Rural Development Program (PRDP), a local NGO, and targeted the critical needs/gaps of the three government schools not covered by the Government’s annual development funds. The main project components included construction of 11 new classrooms, a science and computer laboratory with provision of equipment, washroom facilities, rehabilitation of existing school buildings, and provision of school furniture in addition to mobilization and capacity building of the school’s Parent Teachers Associations (PTAs).

The schools were handed over to the Education Department, Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) at an inauguration ceremony held at district Haripur on Friday on the occasion of the visit of UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner. Mr. George Okoth-Obbo.

The event was attended by senior Government officials of the Education Department and the Chief Commissioner for Afghan Refugees Ministry of SAFRON, Dr. Imran Zeb, Commissioner for Afghan Refugees Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Mr. Muhammad Abbas Khan, the Deputy Commissioner Haripur, Mr. Tasleem Khan, U.S. Embassy Coordinator for Development and Economic Assistance, Mr. Leon Waskin, the UNESCO Country Representative Ms. Vibeke Jensen, Ms. Daisy Dell, the UNHCR Regional Director for Asia and Pacific Bureau (RBAP), Mr. Indrika Ratwatte, Representative UNHCR Pakistan, Mr. Johann Siffointe Deputy Representative, and the Head of UNHCR Sub-Office Peshawar, Mr. Jacques Franquin. Other senior officials from UNICEF and UNHCR Country Office and Sub-Office Peshawar, and dignitaries accompanied this high level delegation along with officials of PRDP and the members of the school’s PTAs and school students.

UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner, marking the handing over of the three RAHA project government schools to the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The school principal welcomed the guests and thanked them for their support to the educational institutions. On this occasion, the senior district education officer, Zafar Arbab Abbasi stated that the RAHA education project has greatly improved the learning environment in the school and has encouraged the staff and students to focus on their academic activities which will help in managing the student drop out from the schools.

Addressing the audience, the UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner, Mr. George Okoth-Obbo appreciated the provincial Government’s efforts to provide refugee children with access to education through inclusion into Government schools, alongside their Pakistani peers, in line with the Government’s commitment to the SDG # 4 of ensuring inclusive and equitable education for all. He noted that investment in Pakistani and Afghan youth equals to investment in resilience, stability and future of both countries, and is as such a strategic priority of the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR) and the RAHA initiative, spearheaded by the Government of Pakistan. More than 280 RAHA projects, worth USD 32 million, have been implemented in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa since 2009, including an investment of USD 7.7 million in the provincial education sector. Mr. Okoth-Obbo thanked the Government of Germany for its consistent and generous support to RAHA education projects in Pakistan which exemplifies solidarity and responsibility-sharing of the international community with the people of Pakistan for hosting the world’s largest protracted refugee population.

The Chief Commissioner CCAR Ministry of SAFRON, Mr. Imran Zeb thanked UNHCR, and the Governments of Germany and the United States for supporting the Govt of KP in its development initiatives in different sectors. The event concluded with the interaction of the guests with the refugee community elders, parent teacher associations (PTA) and beneficiaries of the project.

Upgrading of the existing education facilities is part of a joint One-UN, Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA) programme led by the Government of Pakistan. Ten UN agencies, including UNHCR, and other partners are working with the government line departments to implement RAHA projects that improve access to basic services for Pakistani communities and Afghan refugees they are hosting. Since the launch of RAHA in 2009, some 3,500 RAHA projects have been implemented across Pakistan in the sectors of health, education, infrastructure, livelihoods, water and sanitation. More than 10.6 million people have benefited from RAHA projects, of which, overall around 11 per cent are Afghan refugees whilst 89 per cent have been Pakistani citizens in refugee hosting areas.