For the first time in eleven years, Palestine Refugee students in Yarmouk camp are going back to school in the camp after UNRWA rehabilitated al-Mjaidel-Sarafand School on 3 September with joyous celebrations, following years of forced displacement.
Amanya Michael-Ebye, the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria, opened the academic year at the recently-rehabilitated school.
Students were greeted with traditional Palestinian zaghārīt, (ululations), bagpipes, and tears of joy from parents, who attended the event in droves. Dozens of students were bustling in front of the school, an unfamiliar sight for over a decade when the school was closed due to conflict.
To help children prepare for school, UNRWA distributed school bags and basic stationery, including copybooks, pens, pencils, sharpeners, erasers, colour pencils, and drawing books. Students also received psychosocial support activities to develop their social and emotional capacities and support their well-being.
“It is a beacon of hope to rehabilitate some of the UNRWA installations in the camp. More UNRWA installations will be rehabilitated once the Agency gets funding. Re-opening this UNRWA school would not have been possible without the commitment of our numerous supporters, partners donors and the Syrian government, to whom we are immensely grateful. Seeing the happiness in the faces of students and community members after enduring so much fills us with hope. It is great day!” Amanya said.
“The school is spacious, clean and well equipped. It is like a second home. It’s the only place where we can have fun, learn and meet friends,” said one student.
At the close of last year, 600 students attended neighbouring schools in Yarmouk. At the opening of the new school year, the number had increased to 900 and an additional 100 children were registered on the first day of school.
“It feels great to return to Yarmouk. It is indeed advantageous for our children to attend a school closest to their residence. The new school reduces the burden of going to the nearby schools in Yalda and al-Zahera and associated stress,” said one resident.
In the past, going to school was already a daily challenge for many refugee children in Yarmouk.
Reiterating the importance of the programme, a psychosocial support staff member said: “Getting back to Yarmouk where I was born, as an UNRWA employee was extremely emotional for me. I know we all lived through difficult times during our displacement from the camp, but the reopening of the school gives us hope that normalcy has been finally restored.”
With a generous contribution from the Government of Italy, UNRWA was able to rehabilitate the school, which will run on a double-shift basis and will serve more than 1,000 students. The new school building provides a protective and safe environment for students.
Nearly 49,000 Palestine Refugee children are back to school in Syria which offers them a respite as their families have little and struggle to make ends meet amid worsening socio-economic conditions and sky-rocketing prices.