All children have a right to education. It is one of the articles in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) – Article 28. Children with disabilities usually face huge limitations to accessing essential services, and they are often unprotected and left without proper services, mostly education and health. Children who are confined to wheelchairs are often incapable of independent mobility into and out of their own homes due to lack of a bridging device. Henceforth, it is entirely evident that disabled access is a problem. Installing wheelchair ramps are thus a necessity to facilitate their lives and to create a convenient way of aiding wheelchair access.
Through this project, I have chosen to focus on the situation of Palestinian refugee children in two refugee camps in with the aim of: Improving the educational opportunities and living conditions for girls with disabilities through: 1- Installing wheelchair ramps, 2- Improving playground facilities, 3- Rehabilitating and equipping the sanitary facilities for more accessibility and improved conditions at schools. By means of this project, I not only aspire to provide girls with disabilities with a better chance of reaching the school but also to advocate for the importance of making disabled access and ramps a legal requirement for many locations and establishments, primarily schools.
Being a refugee is difficult and being a refugee with a mental or physical disability is considered a double disadvantage. If the person with disability is a girl, then it is even more difficult. Jordan hosts the highest number of registered Palestine refugees - around 2 million, which is 42% of all registered refugees living in the Middle East. The majority of Palestine refugees who came to Jordan have citizenship under the Jordanian Nationality Law of 1954, and now they form 33% of Jordans population. Most of the services provided to Palestine refugees in Jordan is managed by UNRWA which is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. It was established by the UN General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance, services and protection including education, health care, relief and social services and others to 5 million registered Palestine refugees in the Middle East.
However, as the Palestinian population grew, their needs have intensified and UNRWA has faced many difficulties and challenges due to lack of funding which had seriously affected the numbers of people it can serve and the quality of services it can provide. Based on the foundation that the provision of quality education to all children is a basic right including children with disabilities and special needs, as stipulated in the International Bill of Human Rights, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, and in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the idea of this project came into existence.
The work has been undertaken in the two camps: Al Hussein Refugee Camp and Baqaa Refugee Camp. Al Hussein Refugee Camp is located in Jabal Al Hussein in Amman and has more than 29,000 registered refugees, 4 schools, one health centre and one community center for women. There are around 1,015 people with one type or another of disability in the camp, and about 600 of them are under the age of 18, half of them are girls. [These numbers are unofficial statistics]. Baqaa Refugee Camp is the largest in Jordan and is located 20 km north Amman. It has more than 104,000 registered refugees, sixteen schools, 2 health centres and one community centre for women. There are around 3,640 people with one type or another of disability in the camp. The selection of those two refugee camps was based on discussions with UNRWA Education and Engineering Departments, during which needs were identified and agreed upon.
I thought that the best way to achieve the goals was through involving the principals of UNRWA schools, UNRWA Education Department and Rehabilitation and Engineering Department of the North Amman Area so as to establish the criteria for choosing the schools. Also, involving the students at the schools was another key step which Ive attempted to focus on.
The process included: Conducting background research on feasibility of implementing the project; Meeting with Head of Education Section (Ayman Bakkar) on 30 January and Head of Education Section, Head of Engineering & Infrastructure Department and Head Engineer of North Amman Area (Abdul Kareem Mohamad) on 18 February 2013; Agreeing on the project; Fund raising and contacting banks, private sector companies, civil society organizations and people and presenting the project; Preparing a brochure on the project; Raising awareness among my community on the need to install ramps by distributing brochures and holding talks; Starting and finalizing actual work.
The project has achieved the following results: Improved the educational opportunities and living conditions for girls with disabilities; Provided more accessibility and improved conditions at schools; Installed wheelchairs ramps; Improved playground facilities; Rehabilitated and equipped toilet facilities.
The proposed timeline for the project was three months starting from February 2013 till April 2013, and it was divided into two phases: The planning, research and preparatory work started in February and ended in Mid March, Actual work started in Mid March and continued till the last week of April.
The installation of the ramp in the playground in Hussein school due to the big area that should be covered and the slopes. Difficulties were faced while equipping the sanitary facilities in Baqaa school because the allocated space was small, and it was challenging making the entrance and door of the toilet bigger. Issue of fundraising was difficult and many entities did not respond. All challenges were overcome successfully.
The total cost for installing the wheelchair ramps and improving playground facilities at Hussein Camp and rehabilitating and equipping the sanitary facilities at Baqaa Camp reached JD 1,700.
My role was primarily: Conducting the site visits with my parents and aunt; Explaining my project to the UNRWA principals and officials; Carrying out interviews with the girls at schools; Preparing material for fund raising and presenting my project to sponsors; Raising awareness among my community. [The advocacy and raising awareness are 2 lengthy processes which results can not be assessed instantly].
I would like to highlight and recognize that without the support of my aunt Salam I would have never been able to implement this project successfully. She has opened my eyes to the needs of children with disabilities, and she has made me conscious of how great it is to help others. I would also like to acknowledge and thank the positive contribution of my grandmother and family members who have sponsored me financially to carry out the project. Also, the generous contribution of Sami Khoury Company had been a real help and support in successfully completing the ramp. Last but not least, I would like to thank my amazing parents who have helped me through my entire project as well as being a huge and great support to me. Moreover, my project wouldnt have been as successful as it is if they werent an enormous part of it. Thank you mama and baba, love you.