Roughly 118,000 Palestine refugee students in Jordan enrolled in UNRWA schools

In Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, close to 523,000 Palestine refugee students attend schools provided by UNRWA (Photo courtesy of UNRWA Facebook page)

 While registration remains ongoing and confirmed numbers will be announced in early November, roughly 118,000 Palestine refugee students in Jordan are enrolled in UNRWA schools, according to UNRWA acting field public information officer Amjad Obaid.

In Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, close to 523,000 Palestine refugee students attend schools provided by The United Nation's Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), as opposed to public or private schools, according to Obaid.

"[A] huge part of the agency’s budget goes to education, as UNRWA provides this service itself," Obaid told The Jordan Times on Sunday. "Continuous funding from the international community is needed to ensure the sustainability of the agency’s services."

While the organisation will have a pledging conference at the end of September, UNRWA's budget shortfall for 2019 remains at $150 million, according to Obaid.

Funding issues have been compounded after an internal ethics report was released last month, with allegations of ethical abuses at the highest levels of the organisation, according to the international news agency Agence France-Presse.

Near the end of last month, the Netherlands and Switzerland suspended aid to UNRWA due to “ethical concerns” about the agency, according to a report issued by the international news agency United Press International.

While funding has been interrupted from some countries, the agency has tried to ensure that the education it provides is not.

"Education is of utmost importance to Palestine refugee children as it enables them to pursue higher education and self-reliance as well as empowering them and their families," Obaid said.

"The agency has been providing education since its establishment 70 years ago with no interruptions except in some emergency cases such as during wars in Gaza and Syria," he noted.

While education is continuing to be offered, challenges persist and many of the rented school buildings are overcrowded and do not provide enough room for students to play and participate in sports or physical education, according to Obaid.

Furthermore, roughly 89 per cent of UNRWA schools in Jordan are on the double-shift system in which two administrative schools are required to operate in the same building, Obaid added.

"However, this year and thanks to the Saudi Fund for Development, UNRWA has embarked on a large-scale maintenance project to rehabilitate schools and health centres in Syria, Jordan, Gaza, Lebanon and the West Bank," Obaid said.