March 13, 2018

Messages of hope as Palestinian students call for their schools to be saved

Students fly kites at a school for Palestinian children run by UNRWA

Photo credit: UNRWA

Children at 700 schools run by the UN across the Middle East flew kites to call for an end to the financial crisis that threatens their education.

Thousands of kites fluttered in the air above schools across the Middle East - sending out a message of hope that the education of 525,000 Palestinian children will not be disrupted.

Students at more than 700 schools run by the United Nations agency UNRWA called yesterday for their classrooms to remain open in the face of a financial crisis.

More than 500,000 students took part in the kite-flying events in Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank, where UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees) provides daily education.

Some countries have rallied to the agency's aid after the United States announced in January it was slashing an aid package from $125 million to just $65 million.

UNRWA said this has contributed to the worst funding crisis in its 70-year history - with a shortfall for 2018 of $446 million and the future of its schools in doubt. 

On March 15, government ministers will meet in Rome at a conference convened by Jordan, Sweden and Egypt that is aimed at plugging the financial gap.

Ahmad Jamal, secretary of UNRWA’s student parliament, yesterday urged the international community to go to Italy with additional funds for the agency. 

He said: “On behalf of half a million children, the next generation in the Middle East, I appeal to you from my heart. I respectfully ask for your support to help us achieve our full potential”. 

Ahmad referred to the global fundraising initiative launched by UNRWA called  #DignityIsPriceless. 

He said that “hand in hand with UNRWA, we can, we will deliver, for our families, for our communities and for the Middle East. Our Dignity is Priceless”.

Thousands of Theirworld supporters have sent messages of support to UNRWA and to urge donors to help ease the financial crisis. Chris Gunness, chief spokesperson for UNRWA, recorded a special video message to thank them for their backing.

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UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl endorsed the call by the students. He said: “Together we stand for the rights and dignity of Palestine refugees.

"As a symbol of how strongly we feel about our services, we called on UNRWA students in all fields to fly kites today over our 700 schools as a message to the world that their dignity is indeed priceless.”

If UNRWA’s funding gap is not filled, it won't just be education that is at risk. The agency’s health services may also impacted, such as the vaccination of 180,000 children this year, as well as food assistance, support for disabled refugees and recreational activities for 200,000 children. 

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