UNRWA rejects claims it knowingly uses education materials outside UN values

UNRWA rejects claims it knowingly uses education materials outside UN values
UNRWA shared with its partners the results of its review of a think tank report, finding the educational materials highlighted are not permitted for use in any of the agency's schools.
4 min read
16 July, 2022
UNRWA said its review identified a private website that 'illegally' uses its logo and educators' names [Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/Getty-file photo]

UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA on Friday rejected claims in an education think tank's report that it knowingly uses educational materials outside United Nations values.

UNRWA shared with its partners the outcomes of its review of the report from IMPACT-se, which has offices in Israel and the UK, finding the materials highlighted are not permitted for use in any of the agency's schools.

"IMPACT-se is an organization already well known for its previous sensationalized attempts to delegitimize the Agency's work," UNRWA said in a press release.

It pointed to a 2021 European Union-funded report by the Georg Eckert Institute (GEI) educational research organisation on Palestinian education ministry textbooks.

The document alleged IMPACT-se's reports on Palestinian textbooks are "marked by generalising and exaggerated conclusions based on methodological shortcomings".

UNRWA deputy commissioner-general Leni Stenseth said the IMPACT-se report her agency recently reviewed does not cite any cases from its virtual learning platform.

Live Story

According to UNRWA, IMPACT-se sought to explain the absence of examples from the agency's online platform by noting the lack of material on there.

However, the agency said this is standard since its schools are shut for summer at present.

UNRWA said its review of the report identified a "private, commercial website" that "illegally" uses its logo and educators' names.

"The Agency is seeking additional information on these sites for follow-up action, including possible legal referral," UNRWA's press release added.

Stenseth said she hopes the authors of the report will fully disclose the addresses of the websites it unearthed.

"Others talk, UNRWA delivers. Our education system is acknowledged as the model for effective refugee education, delivering quality and cost-efficient education," said Stenseth.

She alleged: "Reports like these, premised upon smoke and mirrors – obfuscation, not truth – are indicative of an organization trying to garner attention for itself, rather than advancing the cause of refugee education."

Stenseth said UNRWA is firmly dedicated to teaching Palestinian refugee children in line with UN principles and values and zero tolerance for hate speech, incitement to discrimination, violence or hostility.

In response to a request for comment from The New Arab, IMPACT-se said its study included 590 pages in 30 documents of "UNRWA-branded material" across six school grades, and that these were found on "at least four different websites and social media vehicles". It denied the materials came from a commercial site.

"Does UNRWA really expect people to believe that a website forged its logo, hundreds of pages across six grades of exams, drill cards, and supplementary materials that include names of dozens of teachers and schools, and verified education districts listed on the UNRWA branded content?" IMPACT-se said.

It alleged the UN's Palestinian refugee agency has a "pattern" of "denying, then admitting but disassociating the hate materials" from itself despite the evidence.

The think tank also took issue with UNRWA citing the GEI to "attack the messenger", saying the Georg Eckert Institute had "for years relied on IMPACT-se for its expertise on Middle East curricula, featured its work in a book and fulsomely praised IMPACT-se methodologies".

IMPACT-se alleged that the institute had, concerning its Palestinian study, "admitted it mistakenly reviewed Israeli textbooks and presented them as Palestinian textbooks", made "embarrassing" Arabic translation errors and "failed to review the great majority of the textbooks".

IMPACT-se said it had "pointed out the errors", and the GEI then "lashed out".

In response to a request for comment, the GEI said that "while IMPACT-se is a Think Tank", the GEI is a "research institute whose work follows internationally accepted procedures of good scientific practice".

"Despite the GEI's official study on Palestinian Textbooks, which was published in 2021, IMPACT-se keeps making false and one-sided accusations against the Institute by means of the Israeli, German and international press – including IMPACT-se's letter to you," the GEI alleged.

The institute said this has had a "negative impact" on its reputation as a "renown academic institute in its field".

The GEI said it has chosen not to respond to what it called IMPACT-se's "unjustified polemics", and "can only reject" what the think tank writes about it.

The GEI declined to comment on UNRWA's press release.

Note: This article was updated at 17:52 BST (GMT+1) on 16 July 2022 after receiving a response from IMPACT-se. It was updated again at 09:21 BST (GMT+1) on 19 July 2022 after receiving a reply from the George Eckert Institute. A further update at 15:54 BST (GMT+1) on 19 July 2022 noted that the GEI declined to comment on UNRWA's press release.