Students wave balloons for the arrival of the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Pierre Krahenbuhl at Nuzha Girls School, in Amman, Jordan. EPA
Over 115,000 girls and boys went Back to Learning in the schools of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Jordan this week.
UNRWA said in a statement issued on September 1 that due to the health crisis, created by the COVID-19 pandemic, UNRWA schools are opening their doors to students in line with the health and safety regulations of the Government of Jordan.
Along with health and safety measures, social distancing - in the corridors, playgrounds and classrooms – is being implemented. With the limited resources of UNRWA, this can be only be achieved through a blended education approach, where classes are split, with half the children learning at home and the other half in school, in rotation, added the Agency.
“I am very happy to attend the first day of school with UNRWA students,” said UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini. “This is not just any ‘Back to School’! This is Back to Learning, despite a global pandemic and a lot of uncertainty and several months of lockdown. But this a moment of celebration: celebrating the perseverance of our students and of our teaching staff. They have never stopped believing in the power of education and have not left anyone behind, even during lockdowns and closures.”
All schools in Jordan, including the ones that UNRWA runs, closed down early in the spring of 2020, in the middle of a school year, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. UNRWA, like the host Government, moved to a distance learning approach, with students accessing education in multiple ways, including through TV learning channels, and online platforms launched by the Jordanian Ministry of Education. The main objective was to keep uninterrupted access to education for Palestine refugee students, despite the challenges imposed by the pandemic.
During the back to school ceremony held in the UNRWA al-Nuzha Elementary School for girls in Amman, Lazzarini met with young students and had a discussion with Abeer Ihab, who is an elected member of the Agency’s Student Parliament.
“We as UNRWA school parliamentarians have a responsibility towards our peers: we must raise awareness constantly about the need to respect health and safety measures at all times, inside the schools and in our communities, to be able to avoid contracting the virus,” said Abeer. To help the school Parliamentarians do just this, UNRWA Human Rights Conflict Resolution and Tolerance (HRCRT) programme produced a video with age-appropriate guidance to help raise awareness amongst students.
The school children that the Commissioner-General joined on Tuesday as they went back to learning are part of over 534,000 girls and boys in 711 UNRWA-run schools in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.