EU Supports Access to Education for Palestinian Children with Disabilities in Lebanon
Middle East, May 30 2017
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) hosted a ceremony at Deir Qassi School in Saida to recognize the support of the European Union (EU) for Palestine refugee children with disabilities in Lebanon.
With the support of the European Union, UNRWA is working to improve opportunities for children and youth and implement the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 4: to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
This support includes an EU grant of nearly EUR 9 million to improve the school’s accessibility for students with disabilities through the project ‘Education, Training and Employment Support of Palestine Refugee Youth in Lebanon’. As a result, three schools across Lebanon were made to be accessible for students with disabilities. Improvements under this project included the installation of ramps, elevators, and wheelchair-accessible restrooms and classrooms where needed. It has also improved the quality of educational and supportive services provided to Palestine refugee children and youth in UNRWA schools in Lebanon, as well as the quality of technical and vocational education and training to Palestine refugee youth in Lebanon.
Today’s ceremony was attended by Head of the Cooperation Section at the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, Dr. Alexis Loeber, and the Deputy Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, Gwyn Lewis, in addition to UNRWA staff.
Lewis said: “The accessibility works at the Deir Qassi School and other UNRWA schools are life-changing for some of our students. There are no longer impediments for Palestine refugee children with disabilities to access these UNRWA schools.”
“Through the renovation works implemented with this project, UNRWA has removed some of the barriers to equal access faced by students with disabilities. We hope to ensure that this is the case for all 67 schools that UNRWA manages in Lebanon,” she added.
Dr. Loeber said: “The EU is the main donor to UNRWA’s education activities in Lebanon and at regional level. We believe that it’s only through equal access to education that we can reduce inequalities and build an inclusive future.”
“Physical barriers have to be eliminated to improve access to education. But other less tangible obstacles have to be eliminated as well. Early detection and diagnosis of difficulties and problems faced by each child is key to better respond to their needs. Violence should disappear from schools, as should hate or disdain for or fear from those that are somehow different. Palestinian children in Lebanon have to be able to realize their full potential. Schools are a laboratory for life and we have to create the conditions for inclusiveness and for living together in peace,” he added.
The American University of Beirut’s Survey on the Socioeconomic Status of Palestine Refugees in Lebanon in 2015 found that almost 30 per cent of Palestine refugee children from Lebanon and 32 per cent of Palestine refugee children from Syria with disabilities are excluded from the educational system, indicating a need for greater inclusion and accommodation in schools to cater to children with different learning needs. It also found that there is a prevalence of functional disability in enrolled children (6-18 years) of 6 per cent.
EU AND UNRWA: TOGETHER FOR PALESTINE REFUGEES
Since 1971, the European Union and UNRWA have maintained a strategic partnership governed by the shared objective to support the human development, humanitarian and protection needs of Palestine refugees and promote stability in the Middle East. Today, the European Union is the largest multilateral provider of international assistance to Palestine refugees. This reliable and predictable support from the European Union enables UNRWA to provide core services to more than 5 million Palestine refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, including quality education for roughly half a million children and primary health care for more than 3.5 million patients. Collectively, the EU and its Member States are also among the largest contributors to the Agency’s humanitarian emergency appeals and projects in response to various crises and specific needs across the region. The partnership between the European Union and UNRWA has allowed millions of Palestine refugees to be better educated, live healthier lives, access employment opportunities and improve their living conditions, thus contributing to the development of the entire region.
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. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. 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.