Schools in Jordan Lack Resources to Support StudentsWith Learning Difficulties

13 April 2023

Ayat takes a seat at the back of the class and tries to distance herself from the other students who described her as “a troublemaker, rebellious, and stubborn” From the start, I noticed that she is aggressive towards other students, and I have made it my duty to minimize how much trouble she could cause. I would walk among students occasionally to check what they wrote in their notebooks, and I remember the first time I laid eyes on Ayat’s notebook, which she tried to hide from me. Her handwriting caught my attention; the words did not seem legible and looked more like a heart electrocardiogram (EKG) report. At the time, I did not know that what Ayat was suffering from was a learning difficulty known as dysgraphia.

Ayat did not have the opportunity to join the so called “special resources room” a dedicated space at school to assist students with learning difficulties. I tried hard to get her involved in the activities in order to change her behaviour and so she would become calmer and better able to deal with her peers, but I failed in my attempts because she was scared of being asked to write. I do not know what has become of Ayat today, but her story has prompted the search how adapted government schools in Jordan are to meet the needs of students with learning difficulties.

This is the story of thousands of students with learning difficulties that go unnoticed and that make their academic progress impossible due to the lack of necessary provisions to deal with their special needs.

This investigation is based on the experience of Huda Al-Hanayfeh, a fourth-grade teacher in Amman, in 2018.

Data from the Jordanian Ministry of Education reveal that the majority of schools are not ready to support students with learning difficulties. A survey of ninety schools from the three regions of Jordan confirms that “special resources rooms” lack the necessary provisions, thus depriving a big sector of students of the right to an adequate education. The investigation also reveals the lack of coordination, and absence of any proper allocation of responsibilities among the various educational authorities, which deprived some schools of essential provisions for more than three years.

 Increased difficulties

Statistics for the academic year 2021-2022 by the Ministry of Education indicate that there are 19,735 male and female students who suffer from learning difficulties in Jordan, these students have been catered for through 1,070 out of 4,006 schools, though the actual number of students with learning difficulties may be much higher.

According a UNICEF report, the percentage of children with disabilities between the ages of five and seventeen in the Middle East and North Africa stands at 17%. According to the ten-year strategy for inclusive education for 2019-2029, issued by the Ministry of Education and the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Jordan, the percentage of students with disabilities who are enrolled in schools in Jordan is only 1.9%.

We met with the parents of Walid, Yasmin and Arqam, and their stories reflect the challenges faced by parents to access specialised educational support.

Unequipped resource rooms

 It is not possible to bring the student from the classroom to the learning difficulties room and maintain the same traditional atmosphere, as this room should be highly equipped technically so as to engage the student.

The Ministry of Education showed us a table explaining the “special resources rooms” needs in forty two directorates, which helped the reporters get in touch with special needs teachers in more than one school, to gage the level of preparedness in Jordanian schools to deal with students with learning difficulties.

At a government school on the outskirts of the capital we were met by the teacher Bassim Mohammad who escorted us to a small room at the end of a narrow hallway. Bassem explained that the wooden partition that separates the room from the corridor was donated by a parent of a student with learning difficulties. Inside, there was a sign that read “Learning Disabilities Room,” which the teacher preferred to keep inside, so the students will not feel embarrassed.

The teacher had prepared the room himself, and was surprised when the administration issued an order to turn it into a normal classroom to deal with overcrowding at the school, “I lost a six by seven metres room, dedicated to students with learning difficulties.”

The status of the “special resources room” in a school in the southern region is slightly different. Its walls that did not exceed six square metres are decorated with colourful letters and shapes, and the floor shows printed jumping feet. The teacher, Jihan Al-Matarneh, stresses that all the preparations in the room were done through her own individual efforts and with the support of the school.