Monday, March 17, 2014

A Mini Intifada in Ghor

Over the past few days a piece of news in Al-Ghad Newspaper caught my attention about a mini-intifada in one of the schools in the “shanty town” of Joufeh in the Jordan Valley.  The students of “Joufeh Secondary School for Boys” were rioting against the cutting off of electricity and water to their school.  Just imagine a school of 570 students was forced to shut down its restrooms because there was no water. Students answering nature calls had the choice of either going home or relieving themselves out in the open (Yes this is happening now in Jordan).  The electricity cutoff meant dark classrooms, in addition to other obvious inconveniences.  For two days in a row, the sight of young children calling for electricity and water in the streets around their school was nothing short of devastating, and a sure sign of the sorry state we find ourselves in today. 
The reason behind the cutoff in water was not clear.  However, the cutoff in electricity was because a good “Samaritan” and while practicing what seems a favorite passtime down there decided to shoot the electricty generator that feeds the school.  As expected, the electricity company refuses to foot the JD 18 thousand needed for fixing it (and I don't blame it).  Once again we find ourselves faced with the ramifications of the absence of the rule of law, and this time the victim presents itself in the form of an electricity generator, or maybe a school of 570 young students!
Funnily enough the school in question is a brand new school, less than 2-years old!!  From the pictures online, it seems modern and quite impressive.  It was built with foreign aid (surprise surprise!) and as part of some fancy program called Community Mobilization for Partnership (CMP)
in schools program run by an agency called IRD (International Relief and Development) and supported by USAID. The Arabic translation of CMP is quite intriguing and a bit fuzzy (     (المــدرســة المجتمعــية
or maybe it should be appropriately renamed
(المدرسة المشكلجية)
The latest reported news on the situation is that the school is still left to fend for itself to get basic services such as electricity and water.  The Ministry of Education is nowhere to be heard from nor seen
The story of this school fascinated me because it ironically sums up our state of affairs today on so many levels.  On the citizen respect level, in this school we find absolute disregard to the welfare of our students and their teaching faculties and environments.  On the national capital investment level, we are still building school edifices that we cannot sustain simply because we found some imbecile to fund them.  On the rule of law level, this story more than amplifies the state's inability to deter hooligans from wreaking havoc by violating public properties from electricity generators, to water wells, to government lands. On the public relations level, our love is still unabated for enrolling in fancy humanitarian programs without really putting in the necessary commitment or effort to make them work.  A case in point of these wonderful humanitarian programs is the core principles of IRD, which are: 
-          To reduce the suffering of the world’s most vulnerable groups and
-          To provide the tools and resources needed to increase their self-sufficiency.
Well for now, why don’t we reduce the urge of pooping by providing a decent lit bathrooms with clean running water in the school for our students. Once we succeed at that, we can then move on to provide other lofty tools needed to increase other self sufficiency requirements.
Finally, shame on us for consistently and systematically failing our children, especially the poor disadvantaged ones.