Less than 18 months after a donation of US $40 million to support the people of Gaza via Education Above All’s Al Fakhoora programme, the Qatar Development Fund (QDF) visited a number of projects to witness first-hand the impact and progress. The QDF delegation was composed of Ali Abdulla Al-Dabbagh, QDF Executive Director, and Sultan Ahmed Al-Asseri, QDF Third Secretary, who were accompanied by representatives of Al Fakhoora and EAA.
During the visit, QDF representatives met with students, Ministry officials, teachers and school counsellors for an overview of how Al Fakhoora is supporting the mental health capacity of teachers and school counsellors helping vulnerable children. The opening ceremony aimed at launching the reconstruction works and at honouring QDF, took place at the Islamic University of Gaza, which incurred 1.25 million USD damages in the past.
The trip included a visit to Ja’ far Bin Abi Taleb Primary Girls School where four additional classrooms are being built. For the first time children’s input is included in the recovery and reconstruction process, which is coordinated by a UNICEF Child Friendly School architect, in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). June Kunugi, UNICEF Special Representative, explained how innovative design and a participatory approach are distinctive features of the initiative: “For the first time, children and adolescents in Gaza are not only beneficiaries, but also active participants in the recovery and development process. Their views and suggestions are taken seriously and incorporated, enabling them to be part of building their future while improving their psychosocial well-being, a critical element for recovery.”
Other projects highlighted included schools in North Gaza currently being repaired and re-equipped for the 251,000 students who attend UNRWA schools in Gaza. QDF officials had the opportunity to meet with children and families served by UNRWA schools during and after the war, and to see how the programme is truly transforming their lives thanks to the support provided by Al Fakhoora via the QDF funding. Azzam Abuhabib, Assistant Projects officer, Fakhoora funded projects focal, UNRWA expressed his emotion as follows: “During the summer 2014 conflict war, 90 UNRWA schools were used as emergency shelters for internally displaced children. Seeing hope again in the eyes of those children watching their beloved schools move from war shelters to normal schools is priceless.”
Commenting on the progress of the project, Ali Abdulla Al-Dabbagh, QDF Executive Director, said: “We are proud to see that Qatar’s support is making a real difference in the lives of displaced children and orphans in Gaza. Al Fakhoora is making significant progress in school rehabilitation and we are pleased to be part of this project.”
Fahad Al-Sulaiti, CEO of Education Above All Foundation, reiterated the need for continuous support in providing access to quality education in conflict zones such as Gaza: “EAA’s Al Fakhoora programme is the living proof of the impact of our efforts to support the education sector in Gaza. Building safe learning environment through reconstruction of schools and universities is the best way to empower Gaza students and youth with quality education and skills to shape the future they want. We are grateful to the Qatar Development Fund for its generous contribution and are pleased to have the opportunity to show them the funds in action.”
During the gala event, 82 undergraduates and six international masters students graduated, while 25 orphans were awarded undergraduate scholarships within the Al Fakhoora Dynamic Futures programme.
Commenting on QDF visit today, Roberto Valent, UNDP Special Representative of the Administrator said: “Education is key to development and has been a cornerstone of Palestinian resilience and aspiration over the years. EAA’s Al Fakhoora programme and support from QDF are a winning partnership in making the world a better place for youth and children in Gaza.”
Capping off the visit, the UNDP, represented by Roberto Valent, and the Palestinian Welfare Association, represented by Dr. Tafeeda Jeebawy, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the Wajd programme in Fakhoora Scholarship Programme granting orphan students a full four-year multi-faceted scholarship empowerment programme. The Wajd programme was launched after the 2014 hostilities in Gaza and is funded by QDF.
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