The ongoing Syrian conflict has had a marked impact on already-vulnerable groups, including children, young people and refugees. With the support of important partners including the European Union (EU), the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and others, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has been working to respond to the psychosocial needs of Palestine refugee students affected by the conflict.
One of the Agency’s efforts has involved enhancing the ability of counsellors and education staff in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan to respond to students’ needs. In July, the Education department opened a three-day induction training for psychosocial counsellors in Beirut, with a focus on equipping participants with the skills to identify and respond to children’s needs and support their psychosocial well-being. The induction training is part of a series of capacity-building efforts to ensure that education staff and newly appointed psychosocial counsellors are able to provide support to the 67,000 Palestine refugee students and out- of-school children in Syria, as well as those displaced outside Syria.
Each day, the sessions began with 'circle time’, allowing participants to express their feelings and practice support interaction with children and teachers. The counsellors also explored recreational and creative activities – including drama, arts and life skills – that can help children deal with their emotions, express themselves and begin to recover from traumatic events. In addition, UNRWA has also developed a psychosocial support training manual, providing educators with practical skills for child-friendly classroom interaction and tools to identify and respond to children in need of greater support.
The experience and resources of UNRWA partners play a vital role in the Agency’s response to the impact of the Syrian conflict on students. Reflecting the importance of a community-wide response to children’s needs, UNRWA developed and piloted a psychosocial support training manual, providing educational practical skills for child-friendly classroom interaction, life skills, creative and recreational activities and tools to identify children’s specific needs. Participants were also introduced to the Deals – Life Skills programme offered by War Child, which will partner with UNRWA in Lebanon to support the Back to School campaign for out-of-school refugee children from Syria.
At the opening of the training in Beirut, the Agency was represented by Dr Caroline Pontefract, Director of Education; Ann Dismorr, the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon; and Walid Al Khatib, the Chief of the Education programme in Lebanon. They expressed the Agency’s gratitude to its valued partners, including War Child, NRC and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, as well as to the EU, which has been a consistent supporter of UNRWA emergency education work.