Poverty ‘decisive factor’ in driving Jordan illiteracy

Despite ‘free’ education, poorest cannot afford school

(Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — The influx of refugees is the main factor behind the slight rise in Jordan’s illiteracy rate among women in 2020, a senior official has said on Tuesday, commenting on new figures released by the Department of Statistics (DoS).اضافة اعلان

According to the official figures, the illiteracy rate among women was 7.5 percent last year, up from 7.3 in 2019, and 2.7 percent among men, down from 3 percent in the previous year.

According to the Arab Organization for Education, Culture, and Science, the illiteracy rate in the Arab world stands at 21 percent. Among Arab men illiteracy is 14.6 percent and 25.9 percent among women, Al-Ghad daily reported on Tuesday.

Head of non-regular education at the Ministry of Education, Khalid Muhareb, said some communities “do not consider girls’ education a priority”, in reference to the influx of refugees to Jordan over the past 20 years, preferring early marriage for girls and prioritizing male children in education.

Additionally, he highlighted, the phenomenon of child labor in rural communities in Jordan and in surrounding countries is another factor that hinders Jordan’s efforts to erase illiteracy.

"The economic factor is decisive in this context. It is true that (basic) education is free in Jordan, but these families cannot afford the simplest needs for their children to pursue an education," the official told Jordan News.

Ayman Al-Etayyan, a father supporting a family of five in Deir Alla, a farming town in the Jordan Valley, said that his daughter has completed the seventh grade.

“I have made up my mind to take her out of school to get married, because I cannot afford her expenses.” Etayyan said. His other children will not receive the opportunity to be educated either.

“This is a far-fetched dream for us when my income is just JD300,” he said.

Etayyan explained that he cannot afford to eat three meals a day, so he and his family “delay breakfast and eat one meal for breakfast and lunch.” Two meals is all they can manage despite working as farm laborers who work in green houses that can be as hot as “50°C to 70°C”.

"I know that education is almost free," the farmer added, "but I cannot afford it. I cannot stand seeing my son among his school mates deprived of everything."

Sociologist Hussein Khozai emphasized that poverty and unemployment are a major factor pushing up illiteracy rates, noting that there are around 140,000 children in Jordan in the workforce. 

Muhareb called for coordinated efforts to fight the phenomenon and raise awareness among these communities of the risks inherent in illiteracy for individuals and society as a whole.

Etayyan's five-year-old daughter, Rania, seems to understand this.
"I will have education," she told Jordan News. "I don't want my sister's future or working on a farm."

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