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H.E. Mr Ashraf Dabbour, Ambassador of Palestine to Lebanon,
Me. May Hammoud, Representative of the Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee,
Ms Gwyn Lewis, Deputy Director of programmes of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon,
Dear teachers, students and relatives,
It is a great pleasure for me to be here at this beautiful and vibrant cultural centre, Dar El Nimer, that serves as a sort of cultural hub for the Palestinian community here in Lebanon. It is a great place to celebrate education which is the backbone of any inspiring cultural life.
Today we are honouring and recognising the efforts and achievement of the Palestinian refugee students who have recently completed their studies. We are also looking forward together to the new learning prospects of the Palestinian students who will benefit from the European Union-UNRWA Scholarship Programme.
The European Union has been supporting for many years, and will keep on supporting, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Together with the Member States, the EU is the largest donor to UNRWA. The programmes we finance range from the rehabilitation of infrastructures in the camps and shelters to supporting access to health and employment opportunities. But emphasis is always on education, since education as we consider it to be the main tool for change.
Since 2005, more than 600 students have been granted scholarships in the framework of the EU-UNRWA Scholarship Programme. During this period the demand for more support has grown but also have the fees in universities in Lebanon.
By receiving those scholarships you have shown that you are distinguished in many ways but also very lucky. First of all, you are distinguished because you have demonstrated that you have the commitment, strength and determination to move forward. You have a deep thirst for knowledge and are eager to explore new opportunities in life. But you are also lucky to have been surrounded by family, friends and teachers who care for you and who have undoubtedly made your learning experience easier and more enjoyable.
Receiving a scholarship is also a responsibility – a responsibility towards your own community. You are now in a position that allows you to give back. You will be the ones who will be able to support those in need and to be actors of change. You will be role models and you will prove that the quality of education in the UNRWA system and the high dropout levels are important challenges that need to be addressed.
The European Union support to the Scholarship Programme is there to help you and those who aspire for life-changing education reach their potential. This will be your ticket to new professional opportunities and to new and exciting life journeys.
The positive impact of the scholarships in the lives of the students, their families and their community is huge. This is why I invite other donors to help increase the number of beneficiaries by also contributing to the UNRWA scholarship programme.
Let me congratulate the 38 bright young men and women among us today that have been selected for full university scholarships for this academic year and to the 73 distinguished students that have graduated this year.
Mabrouk! your dedication and ambition have paid off.
We have also to extend our congratulations to the families and teachers without whose support this achievement might have been slightly harder to reach.
Finally, I would like to thank the UNRWA scholarship programme team, with a special mention to Michel Salameh, for their efforts and good work.
The journey doesn't end here, it has just begun. Learning is a lifelong experience. You now have the potential to step higher into new realms of possibilities through education.
Thank you and Mabrouk once again.