Jordan has been facing a great deal of criticism over its treatment of Iraqis at Jordan’s Queen Alia airport, some of it deserved, some not so much. However, I have not seen many reactions or blog postings hailing Jordan’s decision to allow the entry of Iraqi children into the public schools.
AMMAN — Public schools in the Kingdom are witnessing a heavy turnout of Iraqis residing in the country, who want to enroll their children before classes start next week. Last Monday, the Ministry of Education finalized a decision to allow Iraqi students to study in public schools as of the beginning of this scholastic year, without the prerequisite residency permit.
The decision, which was taken in response to the humanitarian situation the Iraqis are going through, is intended to ensure that Iraqi children have access to education, according to an Education Ministry official. Previously, private schools were accepting Iraqi students, and only Iraqis holding residency permits were allowed to enroll in public schools. "Large numbers of Iraqis are registering their children in schools across the country," Managing Director of General Education and Students Affairs Mohammad Okour told The Jordan Times yesterday. Figures of how many Iraqi school age children have been registered so far are not yet available, he said. According to Okour, some 50,000 Iraqi students are expected to enter the country’s public schools, in addition to 14,000 who are already in the educational system. Source: [The Jordan Times]
In my humble opinion, I think this is a very courageous and noble step by Jordan. I wonder how the expected enrollment of 50,000 Iraqi children will change the makeup of Jordanian public education in the long-run. How will Jordanians react to this huge influx of Iraqis into their children’s schools when there is already a great deal of tension between Jordanians and Iraqis over the refugee issue and others. Only time will tell. Meanwhile, where is the applause?
Update: Here is a quick update from The Jordan Times.
HRW hails acceptance of Iraqis in schools
AMMAN — The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday welcomed Jordan’s decision to accept all Iraqi school-age children into public schools, but criticised country’s refusal to recognise Iraqis as refugees. In a press release, the group said: "For the first time, Jordan has officially pledged to allow Iraqi children to attend public schools regardless of their residency status." Responding to the statement, a senior official reiterated that Iraqis residing in Jordan do not meet the criteria of refugees as stated in the 1951 convention relating to the status of refugees. Read more.
I’ve been living in Amman the past six years Many of the Iraqis in my neighborhood (Asherfiya) are very poor and barely survive. Some of their children haven’t gone to school for several years. And the parents, some of whom were professionals in Iraq, struggle to find menial labor jobs in Jordan. There are plenty of people to blame for these facts including the policies of my own government.
I have many wonderful friends who are Jordanians and many who are Iraqis. However, it makes me sad to see some of my Jordanian friends blame the Iraqis themselves as if its their fault or to assume the all the Iraqi refugees are living better lifestyles than they are (please visit East Amman and I’ll show you that is not the the case!!). Of course that’s not true across the board, there are many Jordanians and Jordanian organizations who have been a blessing to the Iraqi refugees and I know of at least one or two private schools who have been opening their doors and helping Iraqi children for several years. However, the sad truth is whether it’s immigration and refugee issues in the US, or in France or in Jordan, human nature takes over and at least a percentage of the hosting population of the country feels threatened that their rights and financial well being are in jeopardy. The sad truth however is that except for the grace of God any us could be refugees and in the same situation ourselves.
God bless Jordan on opening the doors to their public schools! Let’s hope that Jordan as well as the US, other Western countries and neighboring Middle Eastern countries will do more to help the Iraqi refugees in increasing ways. I would hope for the right reasons but if not perhaps even out of guilt of the mess that has been made.