Many may not be aware that even in the United States, which almost dominates the world in most economic wealth indicators, as well as being at the top of the ladder in terms of scientific, military and political prosperity, there are also regions that are academically “less fortunate,” similar to the model prevalent in Jordan and the Arab world in general. But one of the American responses to this problem, which is totally absent within our own proposed set of solutions — despite the possibility of its application and vast and deep benefits that actually touch on all aspects of life — is a community-based, nongovernmental response based on volunteer work.
This response was brought to life by Princeton University student Wendy Kopp. For her undergraduate thesis project, she studied inequality through the “chance to learn” phenomenon in the United States. In 1989, she directly followed this effort by launching the Teach for America initiative, which is based on sending volunteer teachers — provided that they are graduates of some of the most important and prestigious universities — to teach in “less fortunate” areas for two years.
What is remarkable about this initiative, whose success has become a story to tell and to be taught, is the volume of those willing to volunteer and who are graduates of the most renowned American universities. In 1990, the first year, the number of applicants reached 2,500 (with more than 50,000 in 2014), although one of the main reasons behind the core problem of educational inequality is the lack of qualified teachers in these areas.
The Teach for America initiative, which started operating in six areas and benefited more than 20,000 students, has now expanded to encompass 50 “less fortunate” areas, benefiting more than 600,000 students. Graduates of the initiative occupy highly ranked positions in the job world as shown on the initiative's website.
Some might say that “America is different,” especially when it comes to the culture of volunteer work, but this might be an opportunity, through a serious organized campaign, in which we could positively surprise ourselves! Otherwise, we need to give priority to a cure for our comprehensive community disorder, as the schools where students are failing constitute one of the many aspects characteristic of this community disorder.
Jordan, in particular, has one outstanding model, which unfortunately only became known after the departure of its founder, the late Mohammad Eid al Damani al Huweitat, through his colleague Dr. Bassem al Tuweise in 2012. The late Huweitat was a backpacking teacher, who travelled with Bedouin tribes for free, passing through vast areas in the eastern, southern and middle desert, extending from Jafar, passing through Bayer, and finally reaching Azraq. According to his colleague Tuweise, he deserved the title “Minister of Education in the Eastern Desert.”
It is only natural that all the proposed solutions to confront educational discrimination are necessary, but the community volunteer work solution is the most applicable in the fastest amount of time possible and until all other solutions achieve their desired results. There is also the fact that educational volunteerism not only provides a chance for equal education in remote and less fortunate areas, but also strengthens the national structure in its widest sense; the smallest problem will present a national opportunity in its most comprehensive and widest meaning.