She had one class left to graduate. But in that year, the war became unbearable – and the family was forced to flee.
Jomana has a warm smile fit for a future teacher. Her eyes lit when I asked her why she wanted to become a teacher since the pay is usually terrible and children are more often than not difficult.
In paraphrase, Jomana answered that she loves children! Especially 4th graders. They have so much energy, potential, and charisma – they haven’t learned yet how to distrust the world. She loves designing games and telling stories and already does this with her own children. She’s 29 years old.
I had gone earlier last week with a friend, Mervat, to help her with enrolling Jomana, a scholarship recipient at Zarqa University. The university has a collaboration offering Syrians to complete their studies. Jomana had applied for this scholarship last year and the funds only recently became available.
We walked across the campus of buildings etched with beautiful Arabic headings and a single fountain that splashes just enough water in your face as to liberate you of the heat – for a moment. The dean of the university was a fatherly-looking man, Mukhtar, whose phone seemed to never stop ringing. He was a busy person, but he sat on his giant desk with a welcoming smile.
“Teshrabo eh?” (What would you drink?)
“La shokran, katar kheerak.” (Nothing, thank you very much)
Three water bottles were immediately delivered – ignoring our previous display of respect.
I learned during that meeting that Jordan counts each class as 3 credits whereas in Syria each course counts for 2 courses, and according to the Ministry of Education, Syrians can equate courses for up to a maximum of 2 years.
Jomana had only one course left to graduate in Syria. Now, she needs to complete two years of study, roughly 132-course hours.
After much bureaucracy, paperwork, plenty of Arabic coffee cups, and many sweet-tongued Egyptian phrases, Jomana got her student ID card. She was shaking as she held it – almost as though that it was unreal. She couldn’t stop smiling while signing her contract.
“I really can’t believe it. Thank you so much both of you for helping me with this, I don’t know what I would have done without you – I definitely couldn’t have maneuvered all this.”
It so happened that there was extra wait time during that day because it was exam season – and many of those who needed to sift through her paperwork were tired and asked her to come another day. She usually nodded. But Mervat and I pushed to finish everything on that day. It was now 4 pm, and we had arrived at 10:30 am.
When I asked Jomana what she missed the most about Syria, she said, almost in a whisper, “my mum” – a crack in her voice was apparent. A well of emotion was charged in those few words, and I thought it best not to push for more. This was her day. I smiled and said that she’ll surely be among the top graduates. Her warm smile was brighter than the sun; you could see the joy in her movement, face, and voice. Unsure if she were to ever complete her education, Jomana now will have the chance to become the educator Syria needs – warm, knowledgeable, kind, and persistent.
The adage goes – كاد المعلم أن يكون رسولاً \ A teacher was almost to be a prophet.
As countries talk about rebuilding Syria, my mind wonders about the youth who have been robbed of their educational pursuits. Who will return? Will the war be taught in the books of history as a triumph of the Asaad regime? Who will write the history? How does remembering the past look like in a country where if the streets could talk they almost certainly choke on the blood spilled?
I don’t know and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
*If you choose to comment, please be cordial and respectful to others in voicing your opinion*
If you wish to support the many Syrians in Jordan aiming to continue their education, check out the Amal Foundation. Your donations can genuinly make a difference.