Jordan: UNRWA crisis leaves 120,000 students in limbo

Jordan: UNRWA crisis leaves 120,000 students in limbo
3 min read
13 August, 2015
The fate of schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine remain uncertain, leaving thousands in limbo.
The Jordanian Teachers Association has insisted the crisis is not financial but political [Salah Malkawi/Anadolu/Getty]
There have been conflicting reports regarding whether the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) will be able to open the schools it runs in Jordan for the coming school year.

Earlier this month, UNRWA, which has a $100 million deficit in its budget, gave donor countries an ultimatum expiring in mid-August before deciding the fate of 120,000 students served by its schools.

On Wednesday, Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh met with Lower House Speaker Atef Tarawneh and members of the parliamentary Palestine Committee to discuss UNRWA's financial crisis and the impact on the services it provides.

Mahmoud Aqrabawi, director of the Department of Palestinian Affairs, also attended the meeting.
Aqrabawi told lawmakers that Jordan's negotiations with donor countries have succeeded in securing the necessary funds to cover UNRWA's educational programme for the next two months, adding that efforts are under way to secure the outstanding amounts.

He also said that UNRWA offices across the country are open now for the registration of students for the new school year, which starts next month.

The Jordanian leadership will not accept the drive to liquidate the Palestinian cause by stopping UNRWA services

- Nasser Judeh

For his part, Judeh said following the meeting: "UNRWA schools will not be closed and the school year will not be postponed."

Judeh added: "The Jordanian leadership will not accept the drive to liquidate the Palestinian cause by stopping UNRWA services." "We will not accept an end to the agency's services except after a solution is reached to the Palestinian question that would guarantee the refugees' right of return and the right to be compensated."

Also on Wednesday, Judeh held a meeting with UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl, during which he reiterated Jordan's categorical rejection of any cuts to, or postponement of the agency's services.

The minister said the government is in contact with donor countries, and has reached out to 49 foreign ministers, in addition to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Judeh said that there have been some positive responses.

However, UNRWA, contradicting statements by Minister Judeh and Mahmoud Aqrabawi has told Jordanian press that postponing the school year is still on the table.

"Till this week, the agency has not received the required amount. UNRWA needs the complete sum of the deficit in order to start the school year," UNRWA Spokesperson Sami Mshasha told The Jordan Times on Wednesday.

"If we do not receive the money, we will take tough decisions in relation to our educational services," he noted, adding that Saudi Arabia recently donated $35 million to UNRWA, of which $19 million will go to the budget deficit and $16 million to the health clinics in Gaza and the West Bank.

Earlier on Wednesday, UNRWA teachers staged a sit-in at the Wihdat Palestinian refugee camp in Amman to protest against the possible postponement of the school year and cutbacks in the services provided by the UN relief agency.

In addition to the students, the cutbacks put up to 5,000 teachers in Jordan at risk of losing their jobs.

UNRWA's financial crisis have also affected its services in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.