Unipal (Educational exchange with Palestinians since 1972) seeks to facilitate a two-way process of education; providing English-language teaching in Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon and introducing British students to a knowledge and understanding of the situation and daily lives of refugees.
During the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 over three-quarters of a million Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes in terror. They settled in refugee camps in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan and Syria. Despite repeated UN resolutions appealing to Israel to allow the refugees
to return to their homes, they have consistently been refused permission
to do so.
In 1950 the United Nations relief and works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) was established to organise the camps and meet the basic needs of the refugees. The scale of the task grew in 1967 when the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip created a second wave of refugees.
Today there are 3.25 million refugees registered with UNRWA, of whom 1.07 million live in 59 refugee camps characterised by chronic overcrowding and poverty. As refugees they have also suffered from extreme denial of human, civil and political rights, and often find themselves condemned to a future without hope and international concern. Despite the signing of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accord, the basic living conditions of the Palestinians have changed very little.
The Importance of Education
Whether they live in the Occupied Territories or neighbouring Arab countries, Palestinian refugees are faced with tremendous obstacles in breaking out of the cycle of deprivation and despair. Finding employment and being able to support themselves and their families is their greatest ambition, and depends upon adequate educational provision.
Palestinians need good English for skilled jobs, to enter university and to communicate with the outside world. UNRWA does provide some English teaching, which Unipal supports with supplementary classes by native speakers.
Unipal and Education
Unipal was formed in 1972 by Eleanor Aitken, herself a language teacher, who on a journey through the Middle East was shocked at the plight of the Palestinian refugees. Since then a total of over 600 young Unipal volunteers have run summer teaching projects with refugee children in the camps.
Over 30 long-term volunteers have worked for a year or more teaching in the Occupied Territories and Lebanon, and over 60 Palestinian teachers of English have been brought to Britain for intensive language courses.
While British volunteers have had a unique opportunity to learn at first hand about the Palestinians’ history, culture and present circumstances, Palestinian teachers have been able to live the language that they teach. The process of exchange brings human warmth and personal experience to the mutual benefit of learning.
How you can help
Unipal is a registered charity which is dependent on donations and volunteers. If you would like to make a donation or set up a Standing Order, please write to us at the address given on the Apply page.
If you are interested in volunteering or hosting a Palestinian teacher, again please contact us for further information and be sure to check out the relevant pages on this website!
Leanna Burnard, Arroub – 2012
I consider myself fairly well travelled, but working in the camp was very different to my other experiences. I have never before felt such a level of selflessness and it was totally liberating. And even when I did feel fed-up or frustrated, the generosity of the local community and the endless enthusiasm and adoration from the children would undoubtedly lift me.
I learnt so much during my experience with Unipal about muslim culture, the impact of the occupation, the role of politics and law, about working with others and about myself, that I feel guilty for likely taking more away from the experience than I gave.