23 September 2010About 30,000 Palestinian refugee children across Lebanon will receive back-to-school kits this week as part of a United Nations push to reduce the financial burden for families struggling to equip their children for the new school term. “Getting students back to school marks an important step in the lives of children in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon,” said Ray Virgilio Torres, representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Lebanon.The kits, which include pens, drawing equipment and books, will give even the poorest students an equal footing and encourage sometimes reluctant parents to enrol their children in school.“I am always delighted when we are able to provide concrete support of this kind,” Mr. Torres said. Nevertheless, “I am also a little saddened that simple challenges such as the lack of pens and paper often prevent children from receiving the quality of education they deserve.”The programme – a collaboration between UNICEF and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) – was largely funded by contributions from the Italian public. It was officially launched this week at the Bireh Primary School near the Burj Barajneh camp for Palestinian refugees.Bireh is expected to receive almost 500 students aged six to 12 this year this year but, like most UNRWA schools, it suffers from underfunding and mass overcrowding.Another challenge is that “the demand for school places is huge, especially in the first grade,” said Bireh head teacher Mowaffack Maarouf. As a result, “we have actually had to turn away pupils because we simply do not have enough space.” That, in turn, has led to increasing drop-out rates almost nationwide, and those with special needs are slipping through the net.
UN to provide school kits to thousands of Palestinian refugee children