Iraqis accepted in Jordanian public schools: where is the applause?

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.


  1. Nas August 15, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    public education costs around 700jds per jordanian student as of this year. that’s how much the ministry will be paying (using our taxes). this is without the books; they tend to factor in everything except the books. the average classrooms have about 20 something kids now, some areas in amman are as high as an astounding 40-50 range.

    how will jordanians react to 50,000 iraqi children entering public schools. i really don’t know.

    but it is more than an “arab” obligation, it’s a moral obligation to let these kids get an education when no one seems to be offering that to them. so i dont think there’s any need for applause. and also, it’s better then the alternatives: no education or the creation of a parallel system.

  2. Jeff August 15, 2007 at 9:07 pm

    Jordan’s efforts when it comes to refugees have not always been perfect, sometimes far from it. But you get the sense they are trying to make sense of it, trying in some fashion. And there does always seem to be a moral compass guiding at least part of the effort. It’s hard to know how all of this mess will play out. I do think the kingdom deserves kudos, however, for this effort. Watching the controls put out when the war first began several years ago, I’d not have expected it, particularly considering that most consider their children and their education the prime resource for their nation. It is a noble act that will hopefully be followed by others. It’s just truly pitiful that other nations, those with much greater resources, are not stepping up to do the same or better.

  3. Mohanned August 15, 2007 at 9:35 pm

    And Jeff you are writing from?

  4. jareer August 15, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    And for Iraqi’s, this is the only thing that they might be able to salvage out of the miserable life they were put into.

  5. kinzi August 16, 2007 at 1:35 am

    Mohanned, maybe you knew this, but I think this Jeff is Natasha’s husband.

    I’m applauding. Years ago, a group of Iraqi parents opened a small school (which I believe was not ‘legal’), as they weren’t allowed in ANY school then. Then the Latin school decided to open it’s doors to Iraqi kids who had been years w/o education, again under the radar. The next year the ruling was made for Iraqi kids to enter the public school system. Most Iraqi refugees hadn’t thought to bring their kids transcripts when they left, though, so they couldn’t get in even with residence.

    It has been a process, and considering the resources, Jordan has done a good job of processing, albeit in reaction more than proaction.

    There are dozens of Iraqi families at my kid’s school. I have heard their stories of treatment at other schools, who weren’t so welcoming.

  6. Nick August 16, 2007 at 3:08 am

    Well, Natasha, there are a couple reasons not to applaud just yet.

    1) After years of intimidation and being barred from schools, it’s likely to take more than just a few kind words to get Iraqis to bleieve this offer is for real, and that there won’t be any punitive action taken against Iraqis who sign up. The government has said Iraqis would be accepted in schools before, remember, and then changed its mind. Now, I believe this is different — but I don’t think many Iraqis do: at the moment there are maybe 4,000 registered for public school. Most estimates say there are between 10 and 30 times that many Iraqi children in Jordan.

    2) The majority of Iraqi children have been out of school for a year, many have been out for more than a year. Many have been exposed to trauma of various kinds. Mainstreaming them back into normal classrooms is unlikely to be easy. So far, I’m not really convinced there are enough resources being dedicated to getting them caught up — there’s one NGO working on it. At a guess, that will mean lots of friction in schools, possibly a high dropout rate?

    3) Many Iraqis are extremely poor and not allowed to work. Public school fees are minimal, but I’ve seen cases of Iraqis who didn’t have JD5 for school fees, much less JD30+books for several children. As of yesterday, there was no agreement finalized to pay the fees of the most vulnerable.

    If Jordan had not allowed many Iraqis to be de facto excluded from education for years, this whole situation would be easier. Yes, Jordan’s government should be thanked for doing the right thing at last… but perhaps not thunderous applause.

  7. Alurdunialhurr August 16, 2007 at 4:45 am

    ما هي قيمه كتابتك عن هذا الموضوع,,أولآ,التعليم هي من حقوق الانسان.ثانيآ,ألاردن ككل سائر الدول قد وقعت علي معاهدات دوليه مع الامم المتحدةتقدي بي أعطاء كل لاجأ الحق في التعليم.ثالثا,هناك الكثير من الوكلات الدوليه قد منحت الاردن ملاين من الدولارات لسد حاجات الاردن الانسانيه.رابعا,عندما كان العراق عراقا ,أولوف من الطلبه الاردنين تعلموا في أعظم جامعات العراق مجانا,علي سبيل المثال. صهري قد تخرج من كليه الطب في جامعه بغداد دون أن يدفع فلس واحد.خامسا,الي بدو يساعد الناس ما بحملهم جميله.سادسا, هذا أقل شئ يمكن تقديمه لشعب لم يتاوري في تقديم الساعده لكل العرب بما فيهم الاردنيون….واخيرآ الجارقبل الدار كما يقول المثل الاردني الاصيل

  8. Hareega August 16, 2007 at 5:39 am

    People tend to think of Jordan as a country with resources.
    Jordan is a VERY POOR country, do not let the hanging bridge fool you. Syria is a country with much more wealth than Jordan.
    The Jordanian population has increased by more than 15% in less than 3 years, that is a percentage not heard of before, except in some African countries where genocides take place.

    My heart is broken for all the Iraqis who suffered from this unncessary war. They deserve to be helped probably more than anyone else, all what I’m asling for is for Iraqi refugees not to expect anything more than what a Jordanians citizen is getting.

  9. Fahmy August 16, 2007 at 5:44 am

    Natasha, when we speak about the public cost of supporting Iraqis in Jordan lets explain what “public” cost means. It means money that I and other Jordanians pay from our taxes, NOT some generous government gift. and as a JORDANIAN TAX PAYER, I SUPPORT ALL MEASURES TO MAKE LIFE FOR IRAQIS VERY COMFORTABLE IN JORDAN to the point they feel like regular citizens (not sure if that’s a good thing for them 🙂 If money is tight, i suggest we clamp down on “health” vacations for Jordanian officials that cost the Jordanian tax payers millions of dollars every year. and lets clamp down on all the corruption in the form of gifts, graft, and subsidies to support the lavish lifestyles of corrupt regime officials and their families. The Iraqis were there for us in our time of need, and this is our chance to show that we are there for them too. That’s what it means to be JORDANIAN. We are generous, honorable, and Arab. Anything else is “official.”

  10. Elliot August 16, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    This shouldn’t be “noble” it should be “normal” to assist dispersed members of the human race. To say it is “courageous” is like saying the Katrina-dispensed student body were welcomed as well by the remaining “courageous” 49 U.S. states. This should be, but obviously is not, a normal innate practice all around the globe … the instinct to help others. There should be no “applause”, rather a sigh of relief that two countries are not squabbling enough over each other’s past, and just doing what should come naturally. A “good job” is all you get Jordan, not a standing ovation.

    On a lighter note, as for how this influx will affect the atmosphere in Jordanian schools, can’t really say, never been to one, but I picture it being something like a Louisianan Southern Baptist entering a private Catholic school in New England. Adolescent inter-religious relationship will form that might actually go a long way for future relations between countries. A second “good job” to Jordan.

  11. euroarabe August 16, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    I think most of you missed a point.
    The Jordanian government only agreed to this after pressure from the US.
    The United States started an uncalled for horrible racist war on the Iraqi people.
    The United States is responsible for these refugees.
    How many refugees does the US accept a year?
    Do people really want to know?
    The United States has MUCH more infrastructure ands resources to absorb them.
    Instead it bullies little Jordan to do it because it’s too racist to accept the (terrorist?) refugees it created.

    We should be pointing fingers and saying shame on the US instead of saying bravo for little Jordan having to buckle under pressure clean up a superpowers mess that it should have sole responsibility for creating.

  12. Elliot August 16, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    Again reiterating, in this situation, it shouldn’t matter if they’re a refugee or a rebel, these are kids who need education now. I could care less what the HRW had to say, and so should the Jordanian Government. Be humanistic, not narcissistic, about educating the younger generation, regardless of their country of origin.

  13. Hamzeh N. August 16, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    رابعا,عندما كان العراق عراقا ,أولوف من الطلبه الاردنين تعلموا في أعظم جامعات العراق مجانا,علي سبيل المثال. صهري قد تخرج من كليه الطب في جامعه بغداد دون أن يدفع فلس واحد.خامسا,الي بدو يساعد الناس ما بحملهم جميله

    Don’t you think you’ve contradicted yourself with these two back-to-back points? In other words, if khamesan is true, why did you bring up rabe3an? Doesn’t make sense.

  14. Hamzeh N. August 16, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    Natasha, honestly, I don’t think defending Jordan is going to work. They say the best defense is a good offense.

    Instead of writing to defend Jordan by pointing out what it has been able to do so far to cope with the extraordinary circumstances that were brought upon it by an illegitimate war, we should by attacking other countries that are completely ignoring the Iraqis. Other neighboring countries of Iraq and other countries in the Middle East, like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE. Some of these countries played an integral role in creating the refugee crisis, what are they doing now for those refugees?

    And of course, the US and Britain. How many refugees have they taken? How many dollars have they allocated in their war budgets to helping out the refugees wherever they are?

    In the sphere of information sources that I frequent, I have not read a single article about what any of those countries has done. All I’ve read is about Jordan and what it has failed to do for its Iraqi refugees. Clearly, there is an imbalance in coverage of this topic with respect to duties of certain members of the international community towards the refugees.

    This is why I think we might have been better off not defending ourselves by posts like this, but attacking the countries that are not doing anything.

  15. Mohanned August 16, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    It was saddam who admitted jordanians and especially palastenians in iraqi universities, and that why now they are being persecuted by the militias, not even one jordanian or palastenian student was able to pursue his studies in iraq after saddam fell.

    I am not advocating for saddam, but give credit for who did the thing, it was saddam’s policy to support jordan and it was jordan’s policy to accept this support, so for you and iraqies to come now and say we did this and did that I think it is a little bit hypocrite, most iraqies hate saddam and hated his policy, most iraqies hated that jordan stood by saddam against iran, so for you to come and say this is WRONG..

    And amigo nothing was for free, only jordan provides free stuff and only jordan is cursed, and for all of those who critisize jordan, look at your countries first, non of you have done what jordan done, we clean up your mess and you just ask for more so please shut the hell up or do something!

  16. Mohanned August 16, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    To add to Hamzeh, how many refugees did Iran take?Oh, I forgot they exported people to Iraq!Hamzeh I totally agree with you! Attack is the best way to defend, because no one understand crap, they think that jordan is dubai and saudi arabia, they don’t know that we have 30% poverty rate, they don’t know that 80% of the population make under 200$ a month, they don’t know that jordanians prefer to eat dry breat with some tea with their diginity and never ask for help, because diginiy and honor is a foreign term to many people out there!!

  17. Alurdunialhurr August 16, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    Hamzeha and mohannad,,you are missing my point,educatio in Iraq was free to everybody including Americans and the policy was instituted long before Saddam and his party came to power,
    At those days we didn’t hear Iraqis complaining about this policy ,to them ,It was a matter of principals and duty to provide Education for all people who chose to come to Iraq and study.

  18. Alurdunialhurr August 16, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    No Hamzeha,i did not contradict my self,I was trying to show their hospitablity,and in return,we must treat them the same and better.

  19. Hareega August 16, 2007 at 10:52 pm

    Elliot, you cannot compare Katrina to Iraq, or the US to Jordan. It’s so wrong for so many reasons.
    American can afford a disaster like Katrina, one city in the whole US was destroyed. But see how much illegal immigration is causing a debate in the US, and it’s only 12-15 million illegal immigrants, less than 5% of the whole US population, how about 50 million Mexicans coming to the US within THREE years, and your country is running out of resources? Now you can start thinking of a comparison

  20. Alurdunialhurr August 16, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    Harrega,,,there is no such humans called illegals except in your mind and the minds of right winger,all humans are legal.

  21. Ahmad August 17, 2007 at 12:38 am

    I was student in one of Jordanian schools .I remember the number of students in one class were around 40. The problem here these students will finish one day, how will they find jobs where Jordanians can not find jobs.
    We also welcomed our brothers from Palestine and now Iraq. We do not know who is next coming to Jordan…. do we have resources to accept these refugees …I think, this is first step for refugees to be residents in Jordan although we could not solve Palestinian refugees.

    I pray to god these refugees will not bring their countries problems to Jordan like what happened in 1970 when Palestinian group attacked capital during September can not compromise the safe in Jordan comparing to other countries.

    ARE You optimistic, will these refugees return back to IRAQ one day?I could bet on that by 1 million dollar.
    Iraq will never ever be safe place .i hope I am wrong.

  22. Ahmad August 17, 2007 at 12:58 am

    Well ,the funny thing about iraqian refugees,they have lost thier homes becasue of USA and Saddam.

    Saddam has goen and USA is still in iraQ.I have found that, ‘The United States has taken in 190 Iraqian refugees from year passed, according to a document of the government who demonstrates the
    monthly numbers that they lower in spite of commitments to accept thousands per October’.

    I hope our firends who are America post their commnets in this page and ask jordanians to welcome the refugges,they are ashemaed by this number.

  23. Hareega August 17, 2007 at 4:04 am

    Alurduni Alhur,
    you like to pass judgements don’t you? The illegal immigrants THEMSELVES refer to themselves as illegal immigrants, sometimes they’re called illegal aliens which sounds a bit offensive, but these terms are politically correct.
    El3ab ghairha

  24. Omar August 17, 2007 at 8:48 am

    USA together with its allied corrupt leaderships occupied Iraq and caused all the troubles in the first place then Iran got envolved and torn the coutry apart, mistakes for which Jordan is held responsible!! Alurduni Alhur has many times refered to the situation of Arab refugees in Jordan !! and plenty others are accusing Jordan of mistreating Arab illegal migrants yet they are allowed public educaton on my and the rest of Jordanians’ expense! and still Jordan is deamon Jordan is cancer Jordan is etc. i wonder what do a USA or UK or OZ based citizens feel after learning the new news which ill put in plain English; Jordanian tax payers are paying for your leaders mistakes, dont you feel ashamed!!? what’s your answer mr. Jeff … before evaluating Jordan’s performance i mean!!
    Jordan isnt the UN country which supposed to solve the world troubles and our government is getting paid to care for us … Jordanian citizens not the refugees who come from countries with governments get paid to care for them and spend the whole summer swimming in their Amman based villas !! lets forget about the filthy games they are actually involved in!!?

  25. Arabi August 17, 2007 at 10:16 am

    Applaud? Why are they doing it for free or they are getting more and more aid from outside?

    Refugees are Jordan’s biggest resource.

  26. Za August 20, 2007 at 9:35 pm

    Applause? That’s only normal, and that’s a shame it was not the case until this decision. Even in France, where “illegals” are chased and kicked out, “illegal” children are allowed to go to public schools.

  27. Hareega August 21, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    Za, yeah compare France to Jordan, good compariosn, very smart indeed

    I wanna compare Jordan to Sri Lanks and ask our government to stop providing vaccinations to kids in school

  28. Hamako August 22, 2007 at 10:43 am

    Its sad, yet mildly amusing, that everyone becomes an expert in moral relativism when shit hits the fan. Get over your idealistic snobbery. The Jordanian government, or any other soverign for that matter, has no other obligation but to its citizens, that is why we have nationalities, that is why you dont see or hear people saying ‘I am a citizen of the world’ short of satires. Because unfortunately, morals dont give you rights, only passports do. The fact that the Jordanian government, along with others, provided a non-obligatory service to a fraction of the Iraqi refugees, thanks are fucking due. There is a difference between the right thing to do and the obligatory thing to do, and again, if you think that the two should always coincide in reality as well as in theory, I urge you to get your heads out of those books for a moment of reflection. The Jordanians are getting crap for mistreating some refugees, rightly so, but conversely, give credit where it is due. Otherwise, I suggest you stop rubbing shoulders with the American soldier that actually put you in this spiral of a crap-shoot that you are currently in. Not that Jordanians are waiting for a thank you from each single Iraqi in the country, but it is, as you vehemently argued, ‘the right thing to do’.


  29. Brian H August 29, 2007 at 2:06 am

    Jordan would be very, very, smart to be very, very, nice to Iraqis. Already Anbar is stabilizing, and the rest of Iraq is turning. And, did you know, it turns out Saddam had hidden seismic surveys showing about 100 bn bbl of oil in Anbar? So the western Iraqi Sunnis are rich?

    Wouldn’t it be better if Iraq liked Jordan? Be nice. It’s good for you.

  30. Philip R September 4, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    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.


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