A student parliamentarian presents UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl with a 'box of dreams' during the first day of school ceremony at the UNRWA Yarmouk Girls' School in Beirut, Lebanon. © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Ramzi Haidar
This week some 37,000 Palestine refugee girls and boys began the 2019-2020 scholastic year in the 65 schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Lebanon, the Agency has reported.
In a Thursday statement, UNRWA said representatives from the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in Lebanon and from the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, as well as the Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon Ashraf Dabbour, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl, and the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, Claudio Cordone took part in a ceremony to mark this occasion at the UNRWA Yarmouk School in Beirut. Representatives of the European Union and UNICEF were also in attendance.
“The girls and boys I met today give real meaning to celebrating ‘Back to School’,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl said. “Seeing 65 schools open their doors is a source of immense joy and seeing some of our students become great achievers is a source of immense pride. We work hard to keep the aspirations and rights of Palestine refugees protected.”
During the ceremony, students from the UNRWA School Parliaments in Lebanon gave Krähenbühl a “box of dreams” to present at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly in New York. “We wrote our dreams on cards and put them all in this box,” said Balsam Wehbi. “We want world leaders to know that, like children elsewhere, some of us dream of becoming doctors, others want to be teachers, others artists and much more,” she added.
UNRWA operates 709 elementary and preparatory schools in its five fields of operation with a total of 530,000 Palestine refugee children, including eight secondary schools in Lebanon.
For nearly 70 years, UNRWA has preserved the right to education of Palestine refugee children and has provided inclusive and quality education, including during times of conflict, blockade and occupation, graduating some 2.5 million students from its schools since 1950.
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 program budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall.