Ministry moves forward with school inclusivity, construction amid overcrowding

The Ministry of Education building in Amman. (Photo: Petra)
(Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — One of the pandemic’s many impacts on the education sector is the growing tendency of students to transfer from private to public schools as more parents are unable to afford expensive tuition expenses, in turn increasing pressure on an already crowded system.اضافة اعلان

This has increased the burden on the Ministry of Education to accommodate incoming students by refurbishing and expanding existing schools as well as building new ones.  In addition to meeting the needs of a growing student population, a recently updated public school construction code stipulates that schools must provide the necessary facilities and accessibility for persons with disabilities.  

Since the start of the pandemic, some 223,000 students have switched to public schools, with the total number of public school students today reaching 2.12 million, according to the Ministry of Education’s Director of Buildings and International Projects Ibraheem Al-Samamah, who is in charge of construction and maintenance at public schools.  

Nationwide, nearly 900 schools have been refurbished at a cost of JD15 million. Another 32 new schools have been built at a cost of JD40 million, all funded from multiple sources, including government allocations and private sector contributions, as well foreign loans and international donations.  

An additional 130 schools are slated to be constructed in the next few years to ease overcrowding and minimize the two-shift system that was implemented to host Syrian students. The budget for the new schools is estimated at JD511 million. 

Samamah told Jordan News that the ministry created the new construction standards to enable the accessibility, integration, and inclusion of students with disabilities. The new construction code addressing inclusivity came after the signing of a recent agreement between the Ministry of Education and the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Under the new standards, each student will have 1.9 meters of space instead of 1.4 meters, schools will have two elevators instead of one, and a health department/clinic will be located on each floor. 

Currently, there are 140 schools in the Amman Governorate, 54 of which are inclusive of students with different disabilities.  However, due to a shortage of empty spaces in the Amman area, expansion has to be vertical, according to head of the Amman Education Directorate, Nawal Abu Reden. 

“Due to lack of land, the only way we can expand is to build new floors to existing schools,” she said, while voicing concern of the potential risk of high buildings. 

Irbid surpasses Amman in the number of inclusive schools in the governorate. There are 179 schools in the governorate, around 80 percent of which are inclusive of students with various disabilities.  Two additional inclusive schools were recently completed in the governorate, but according to head of the Irbid Education Directorate, Saleh Al-Omari, increased demand and overcrowding persist, mostly due to transfers from private schools.  

“We can only resolve those persisting challenges through the unfavorable option of the two-shift system,” he said. 

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