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In Jordan, this spring has been a repeat of last spring — but more devastating.
A year ago, Jordan was a bright spot in coronavirus prevention measures. The nation shut down early and kept cases low while the United State and Europe erupted with infections.
Fast forward to this spring, and the nation is once again on lockdown. Unlike last year, case rates are the highest yet in the nation of 10 million, spurred on by deadly variants. The increase has struck with a particular cruelty because people are much more tired than they were last year. The unpredictability, fear, economic hardship, and isolation are wearing on everyone, citizen and refugee alike.
Despair runs deep as they witness a slow rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines. As of April 1, nearly all of the elderly were vaccinated and the nation was working to vaccinate all medical personnel. Teachers at our school for Iraqi refugees don’t know when they will get their chance. This lack of vaccines for educators has had devastating consequences at the Good Shepherd Center as five teachers contracted the virus this winter. One is fully recovered and four are well on their way.
None of the children at our school have become ill.
Schools were entirely remote in January, a precaution put in place to mitigate any spread through Christmas and New Year gatherings. In February schools opened at half capacity so roughly 50 students could attend Good Shepherd Center at one time. This allowed the teachers to work with children in small groups to help them catch up on lost learning and finish up materials from the first semester. The time together also permitted them to give the children new books and materials for the start of a new semester.
As spring arrived, Principal Dawlat Hijazeen said there was great anticipation for a small celebration to mark Jordan’s Mother’s Day holiday on March 21. The school staff – many of them mothers themselves – know the acute strain on all mothers during the past year as they deal with children learning at home in cramped quarters. But the celebration was not to be as the nation went into a swift lockdown. With the lockdown, the mothers again bear the brunt of trying to make sure their children continue to learn from home.
“When the families see me coming, the moms start crying from the pressure,” Hijazeen said. “All of them are really tired. They just need someone to talk to. I sit with them and listen. We share our struggles together and then we put it in front of the Lord in prayer.”
Hijazeen worries about her teachers. They have risked their health to educate children, and their workload has been enormous.They put in long days teaching from home and most also have their own children at home who are also trying to learn remotely. The teachers with very young children are especially feeling the strain.
“Please pray for the teachers for their strength,” Hijazeen said.
There was additional anguish at the school when half of the children lost the chance at a desperately needed outing to an outside play area. Half of the children got to go on the outing but the other half lost out amid the nation’s rapid shutdown.
“The kids who didn’t get to go left the school crying,” she said.
“The next day I put a red heart on a straw and I visited every child at their homes. I told them the heart is a reminder. They can look at it and know that I will keep my promise to them that we can go when everything opens again.”