Education and identity: the role of UNRWA’s education programmes in the reconstruction of Palestinian nationalism

Studies of specialised agencies of the United Nations in general and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in particular focus overwhelmingly on the humanitarian activities and structures of these institutions. Relatively understudied and less understood in the literature on UNRWA is the impact the institution has had on the ongoing reconstruction of Palestinian national identity over the last six decades.

This study focuses on how UNRWA’s support of, and provision for, education in schools and camps in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and elsewhere helped in the continuation of reconstructing Palestinian nationalism and identity. In UNRWA schools, Palestinian students interacted with one another in ways that inadvertently preserved and cultivated an identity of nation and self among Palestinians amidst war and social dislocation. This article examines how UNRWA schools have been providing opportunities for Palestinian youth to articulate and enact Palestinian identity.

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