In addition to teaching the host country curriculum, UNRWA works to enrich it through the delivery of human rights education. The programme began in 1999 with the aim to promote non-violence, healthy communication skills, peaceful conflict- resolution, human rights, tolerance and good citizenship. In May 2012, the Agency endorsed its new Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Tolerance (HRCRT) Policy to further strengthen human rights education in UNRWA. This policy builds upon past successes, but also draws from international best practices and paves the way to better integrate human rights education in all our schools.
The HRCRT Policy reflects the UNRWA mandate of quality education for Palestine refugees and sets out a common approach among all UNRWA schools for the teaching and learning of human rights, conflict resolution and tolerance. The vision of the policy is to “provide human rights education that empowers Palestine refugee students to enjoy and exercise their rights, uphold human rights values, be proud of their Palestinian identity, and contribute positively to their society and the global community. “ The HRCRT Policy is also a key element of the wider education reform in UNRWA.
HRCRT TOOLKIT FOR TEACHERS
The HRCRT Toolkit was developed in 2013 as a practical guide to support teachers and school principals in implementing the HRCRT Policy and update the approach to teaching and learning human rights in UNRWA schools. It provides a general guide on human rights, as well as planning tools for its integration at schools, and 40 child-friendly activities that will develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes of students towards a culture of human rights.
The HRCRT Toolkit was developed in a fully participatory manner and then improved according to feedback received during its testing phase in UNRWA schools in the West Bank and Gaza. All teachers and school principals have been trained to help them make the best use of the HRCRT Toolkit. In this way, each and every UNRWA teacher can play a crucial role in strengthening a culture of human rights in UNRWA schools that serve 526,000 Palestine refugee students.
UNRWA SCHOOL PARLIAMENTS
UNRWA has elected school parliaments as part of its HRCRT programme since 1999. Every year, UNRWA schools hold elections to form school parliaments. Those parliaments have been a key vehicle for the promotion of respect for rights, democratic practices, and tolerance. The elected students seek to represent all students and support their communities. For example, school parliaments organize human rights-related activities, help resolve conflicts between students, organize field trips, invite guest speakers, and represent students when speaking to school administration.
UNRWA SCHOOL PARLIAMENTS: GOOD PRACTICES BOOKLET
The UNRWA School Parliaments: Good Practices Booklet is a compilation of good practices from UNRWA school parliaments in all five fields of operation. The practices reflect how school parliaments have been working to raise awareness and take action on human rights. The booklet provides an easy-to-read summary of a range of activities undertaken by school parliaments and as such provides a reflection of a small sample of the vast wealth of experience of UNRWA schools.
THE AGENCY-WIDE STUDENT PARLIAMENT
In November 2017, the first-ever Agency-wide Student Parliament (ASP) was elected, consisting of 21 members representing each geographical area from the Agency’s five fields of operation. The ASP is designed to provide a collective space to enhance the engagement of students across all UNRWA fields, help them express their pride in their common Palestinian identity and strengthen their social cohesion, voice their opinions on relevant issues, and convey their views and opinions on various matters – reflecting the specific issues and aspects of each field to the Agency’s headquarters (HQ). Members of the ASP have been actively engaging in key events with the Commissioner-General, such as the UN General Assembly, the League of Arab States meetings, and other Agency-level events.
ENHANCING COMMUNITY AWARENESS OF HUMAN RIGHTS
The community plays a key role in forming the attitudes and values of children and, thus, in developing HRCRT learner competencies. Therefore, increasing the community awareness of human rights and human rights education is an important step towards strengthening a culture of human rights beyond UNRWA schools. This is achieved through:
HUMAN RIGHTS DAY CELEBRATIONS
Since 2014 UNRWA has been actively utilising Human Rights Day, celebrated on 10 December, as a means to reach out to communities and promote a culture of human rights. Celebrating Human Rights Day aims to:
- Increases community awareness about human rights;
- Demonstrate to parents, and the community at large, that in UNRWA schools children are learning about human rights and more broadly are acting to create a better world by becoming active, responsible, and respectful citizens;
- Present the role of school parliaments to promote a culture of human rights in school and community life.
HRCRT ANIMATED VIDEOS
HRCRT animated videos aim to raise awareness about human rights and UNRWA’s HRCRT programme within communities in all Fields. The videos demonstrate the value and relevance of human rights education for students in UNRWA schools. The videos are screened on the UNRWA YouTube channel.