This morning we went to Jerash. Not to visit famous Roman ruins there but to tour the Refugee Camp there that may or may not contain 30 000 people. This number like all estimates of population in this region are imprecise and controversial.
The story of the refugee camps in Jordan is not easy to summarize. It begins with the Arab view that Palestine is what we know Israel. The Palestinians who left the area in two rounds (1948 and 1967) did so believing that they would return. In Jordan today, and their descendants, number 3 million or about half of the people who live in this country. About 300,000 live in camps waiting to be told that they can go "home". Some are Jordanian citizens, and some of them can work. Many are not and can not.
Since these camps are "temporarily" they come with restrictions on construction. Housing can not be more than a story has a fixed roof or are served by underground sanitation. The solution is tin roofs held down by concrete blocks and open ditches along the middle of the streets. The camps are open and look like some very poor part of town.
But when you visit schools it does not seem all that different from other schools. It is a bit more crowded even on two shifts per day. The classrooms are a bit small and has a high student teacher ratio but the children did not appear to be malnourished or even poorly dressed. When organized in RTP activities they participate with gusto and enthusiasm.
The game we saw today focused on the concept of littering. Approximately 30 preschool girls were divided into two teams each in a line. Pretend garbage in the form of soft rubber balls were scattered throughout the play yard behind them. The girls were told to clean up trash and throwing it in the neighbors yard was acceptable. When the whistle blew, it looked like the beginning of a war. Each side lifted the SOT balls over your head and into the yard of the other. It was great fun.
When the whistle blew it was obvious that nothing much had changed. His back feet were still full of garbage and it came out in a discussion. To reinforce the point the students were given a banana. They ate silently track then lined up in a single file and discard the shells. It was an impressive show of obedience.
We toured the camp. The adults reflected none of the enthusiasm of the children. They could have used the lesson on the hill their children had just received. There was a market, but given that almost no one has an outside job, the only conclusion that UN support is to keep people from starvation. It was hard not to feel sorry for them as adults and for children, knowing what awaited them after school. It made me realize how important the RTP programs.
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Submited at Tuesday, October 25th, 2011 at 6:00 pm on Middle East by dave
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