UNRWA inaugurates a pilot trilingual new school in Saida, Lebanon

BEIRUT,The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) inaugurated yesterday the newly constructed Trilingual UNRWA al-Sakhra Co-educational School in Mieh Mieh, Saida.

The inauguration was attended by United States Ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy C. Shea; French Ambassador to Lebanon, Anne Grillo; Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ashraf Dabbour, Chairperson of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC), Bassel El Hassan; UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General, Leni Stenseth; and Director of UNRWA Affairs, Lebanon, Claudio Cordone. The inauguration was also attended by Lebanese officials, representatives of the Palestine refugee community in Lebanon, teachers, students and parents.

The UNRWA al-Sakhra Co-educational School was constructed with the co-funding of the governments of the United States of America and France and with the support of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

The new purpose-built school replaces two rented school buildings, ensuring students receive quality, equitable and inclusive education. The new facility addresses serious challenges with overcrowding, small classrooms, and poor lighting and ventilation, as well as addressing the prior lack of facilities in the rented school buildings by providing science labs, libraries, and large playgrounds.

In the new school, UNRWA is piloting a trilingual Arabic-English-French model of education delivery in line with Lebanon’s multi-lingual context. The new co-ed school provides a safe school environment for almost 1,000 Palestine refugee students. It offers students state-of-the-art facilities, including 28 spacious classrooms, a library, a theatre, laboratories, and two playgrounds and activities rooms.

US Ambassador Dorothy Shea highlighted, “Whether providing education and health care or emergency assistance for those affected by conflict, UNRWA is a lifeline for vulnerable Palestinians.”

French Ambassador Anne Grillo reiterated “the importance of providing a decent life for Palestine refugees and of supporting UNRWA, in cooperation with its partners, especially in the field of education. It is through education and its access to all children that Lebanon can build its future.”

Palestinian Ambassador Ashraf Dabbour stated, “The construction of this new school compound came as a result of efforts aiming to alleviate the suffering of the Palestine refugees. It was made possible thanks to the cooperation between the PLO and the governments of the United States of America and France. This also stems from our support to our people and our responsibility to ensure that the future Palestinian generations thrive and become the backbone of the independent Palestinian State.”

The Chairperson of LPDC, Bassel El Hassan, said: “Despite all the difficulties and challenges, we are committed with our partners to building hope, creating optimism, and promoting stability, under the rule of the law and in respect of legitimacy. High quality education is a gateway to development, and development is a gateway to strength, recovery and self-confidence… and all of that is a bridge to justice, right and a better future. The Palestinian camps, the neighboring and host communities deserve all attention, care and support, which the Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee is keen to provide, as part of the Lebanese government’s policy towards the Palestinian cause and the refugee issue.”

UNRWA Deputy General-Commissioner Leni Stenseth said, “We celebrate today this achievement that will first and foremost improve the learning experience of our students. This Trilingual school is a new example of the Agency’s continued investments in expanding human development and opportunities for Palestine refugees. A good school environment is a key component in providing refugee children with quality, equitable, and inclusive basic education. I express sincere thanks and appreciation to the United States, France, and the PLO for this generous donation, which once again reaffirms their commitment and support to UNRWA and Palestine refugee children in Lebanon.”

The United States and France are among the largest donors to UNRWA. In 2021, the United States government contributed $338.4 million to UNRWA and the French government donated €23.55 million. It is thanks to the enduring support of donors like the United States and France that UNRWA continues to provide lifesaving humanitarian services to Palestine refugees.