Government-funded schools are accommodating 24,000 Iraqi students, causing massive pressure on the education system, according to Minister of Education Taysir Nueimi.
[Read this report in Arabic]
Nueimi said the high number of Iraqi students had created financial and logistical difficulties for the education sector, and urged the international community to provide more assistance to Jordan.
"The education sector is burdened with extra financial obligations due to the enrolment of at least 24,000 Iraqi students," said Nueimi, noting that students are currently accepted in government schools regardless of whether they hold a residency visa or are in the country illegally.
Officials at the Interior Ministry said at least 360,000 of the 500,000 Iraqis living in Jordan do not have valid residency permits. In recent years those without the permits were not allowed to attend these schools. Even those with residency permits were only allowed to attend with special permission. This policy left thousands of Iraqi children without any education possibilities.
However, in the past few months the government has caved in to international pressure and allowed all Iraqi children, regardless of their residency status, to attend government schools.
Ministry of Education officials say many schools have resorted to a double shift system to accommodate the high number of students. Others have opened new classes or hired extra staff. Most of the Iraqi students are in the cities of Amman and Zarqa, said Nueimi.
International aid not enough, says Jordan
The latest figures on the number of students were announced on 12 February during a meeting with UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, who arrived in Jordan as part of a week-long tour of the region to highlight the plight of millions of uprooted Iraqis and the efforts by host countries to help them.
Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Suhair al-Ali said during the meeting with Guterres that Jordan's economy had lost US$2.2 billion as a result of hosting Iraqis - the funds having been spent mostly in the education and health sectors. She urged the international community to assist.
The European Union, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the USA and the Iraqi government have contributed a total of US$50 million to help the kingdom. However, Jordan says the money is insufficient.
According to the UNHCR, at least 4.4 million Iraqis are still uprooted, including 2.4 million displaced inside Iraq and two million outside, mainly in Syria and Jordan.
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