The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is pleased to announce the launch of its ambitious Information and Communication Technology for Education (ICT4E) strategy to support its students, teachers, and education staff in becoming independent actors who can actively and critically engage with digital technology. The strategy is expected to serve over 540,000 Palestine refugee students and approximately 20,000 education staff in over 700 schools across Gaza, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
UNRWA has been teaching Palestine refugee children for over 70 years and its education programs have always been informed by the ever-changing technological developments. The Agency, therefore, strongly believes that access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and use in pedagogy is key to the realisation of UN Sustainable Development Goal 4, inclusive and equitable quality education, and for UNRWA students to become independent actors who can actively and critically engage with digital technology.
The ICT4E Strategy is part of an Agency-wide Digital Transformation Strategy led by the Department of Information Management and Technology (IMTD). In 2021, IMTD together with the Department of Education, developed the UNRWA Digital Learning Platform (DLP), as the COVID-19 pandemic undeniably amplified and accelerated the need for digitalization the UNRWA education programme. The Strategy will serve as a vision and guideline for how the UNRWA education program will engage with technology in the coming years, both in times of relative stability and emergency, supporting the desire for innovative and collaborative teaching. In this regard, the ICT4E Strategy prioritises securing four enablers, namely improving access to devices, enhancing connectivity, strengthening resources, and developing capacity building in technology for learning, teaching and educational management.
To ensure optimal support in learning, teaching, and management, the Agency has partnered with Microsoft in December 2021, and a Learning Management System (LMS) based on Microsoft Teams is being developed under the third pillar of the Strategy. This will allow for better communication between students and teachers, cultivate a collaborative online learning environment, and ensure developing key skills, such as Media and Information Literacy (MIL).
With the support from partners such as Microsoft and the Open Society Foundation, the implementation of the UNRWA ICT4E Strategy has begun, leading students and education staff to access, to, and create the digital world around them.
UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA program budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s program budget. UNRWA emergency programs and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.7 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip their full human development potential, achieve a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.