Some of my best memories of Jordan are of sitting huddled around a kerosene heater with the librarian and a few other teachers in a small village school library, listening to a tape of “al-Layla Dobe,” squeezing a green lemon over a shared can of tuna, and toasting pita bread over the top of the soba. The main office where the mudira sat had a second larger upright propane heater on wheels, but the school’s classrooms were totally without heat, and birds flew in and out of the classrooms. (A bird in the classroom is lucky, I was told as I ducked the swooping creature, the sign of a safe place, since birds will not go where there is danger.) On the coldest days, many parents kept the smallest children home from school for weeks at a time.
Now the long awaited White Christmas, or maybe White Eid, has arrived in Jordan with major snowstorms. At the same time the King has discovered the children need heat in the classrooms. Says a Jordan Times editorial (links are only active for a week):
The snow and heavy precipitations we were praying for and were finally granted brought to the fore deficiencies that qualify as inexcusable.
One is lack of any heating system in public schools.
King Abdullah had graciously ordered that heating units be made available to these schools so that students can cope with the near zero temperatures in classrooms.
Since this year’s cold weather is not exactly unique, and the winter season is normally severe across the Kingdom, the question concerned authorities might want to answer is why schools have no heating systems until now.
Do they believe that keeping warm in the winter is a luxury that students can and should do without?
Is there always need for the King to intervene before action is taken to solve problems which common sense should take care of?
The short answer to the editor’s question is “yes.” For some reason government officials are unwilling to act and routinely defer any and all decision-making to the next higher level of government. At the same time, any grass-roots activity–like a teacher-parent organization–is completely lacking. This is a common pattern across the Arab world. I have never been able to figure out why.
According to the Jordan Times, Wednesday’s snows closed off the desert highway, stranding travelers in the areas of Maan and Petra, and on the road between Petra and Aqaba.
Jerusalem’s Old City also got an uncharacteristic snowfall. But did Amman get snow?