Help for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon
• The European Commission asked the ETF to help prepare a five-year EU assistance project: Empowerment of Palestine refugees through technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and job creation in Lebanon
• The ETF worked with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to design a project to improve career guidance, employment services and access to vocational education and training.
• The general objective of the project that will be implemented by UNRWA is to enhance the employment chances for Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon.
• The overall budget of the programme will be €3.4 million
• The project is due to start at the end of 2012
• The presence of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon dates back to 1948. There are currently between 260,000 and 280,000 Palestinians residing in Lebanon, and more in other countries.
Feature: The Art of the Possible
“I have no plans, it's only the present.” Mohammad Aabed, a 27 year-old graduate of accounting from the Arts, Sciences and Technology University in Lebanon didn’t hesitate to give an answer when asked what his career plans were.
Like many young Palestinian refugees, Mr Aabed finished a private school, for which he had to pay, but he had little use for whatever he had learnt there.
To be an accountant in Lebanon you need citizenship. Any citizenship. And Mr Aabed, a third generation refugee ,has none. He works casually, helping with paperwork at a local NGO.
“It's bad when you finish your studies and then you are not allowed to work.” Without a country to return to or a family abroad to join, Shatila refugee camp in Beirut is the place where he is likely to stay for a long time. A survey, published by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in December 2010, revealed that two-thirds of Palestinian refugees live in poverty.
Early school leaving and low levels of qualifications, coupled with restrictions on work - 56% of refugees are jobless - put many families in a state of persistent economic insecurity. Some 50,000 Palestinian refugees who have jobs must make do with low-paid, low-status casual employment.
At the end of 2011, the European Commission asked the ETF to help design an EU assistance project to improve career guidance, employment services and access to vocational education and training for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
Abdelaziz Jaouani, an ETF expert in charge of relations with the Lebanese authorities, said this is the first time the agency has worked for the refugees.
”I had been aware of their situation, but when you visit the camps and discuss with the people involved, you realise the reality and depth of their distress” said Mr Jaouani. “They are often closed in the camps, with very limited access to schools and jobs too. It’s tough”.
The word ‘camp’ is somewhat misleading here. It evokes the images of tents in fields and implies a temporary character. But Shatila, where Mr Aabed lives, and many other camps in Lebanon are well within city boundaries. They are made of hundreds of low quality, but by no means temporary, buildings that often house four generations of refugees.
The Galilee Secondary School, a UNRWA-run school for Palestinians, is near the Sabra and Shatila camps in Beirut. Iyad Owayyed works there as a registrar. A Palestinian refugee from Saida, 40 kilometres south of the capital, Mr Owayyed is also the school’s career counsellor.
“We help them not to study something that will bring them difficulties in the future.”
“We try to help students make the right decisions when they are choosing their studies, so that they choose majors which provide them with a higher level of employability,” said Mr Owayyed. “We help them not to study something that will bring them difficulties in the future.”
Mr Owayyed was one of the Palestinian counsellors who took part in an ETF training course in November 2011. The training introduced them to modern methods for career guidance and made them more self-confident in their work.
The counsellors organise orientation sessions, where 15 to 18 year-olds learn about professions and how to choose one. They provide individual advice in nine secondary schools and 12 vocational schools. There are also visits to vocational training centres to show what a profession looks like in practice and how it can be learnt.
Khaled Dgheim, a career guidance officer at the Beirut office of UNRWA, who has been in charge of the programme since the beginning in 2010, said that the new EU-funded project will provide more training for the counsellors, and support the production of job leaflets and other material. It will help build an information system on further training and job market needs, and make sharing experience with other countries possible.
“Most young Palestinian people don’t know what vocation to choose,” said Mr Dgheim. ”If a young man tells me ”I’d like to be an aircraft engineer”, I ask him “Do you know that the Palestinians are not allowed to practice this job?”. But in the end, through career guidance, we can improve their chances of employment.”
This article appears in the new issue of ETF magazine Live&Learn.