Jordan’s Queen Rania launches English language initiative for youth

“And it pains me that one of the things our nation’s youth worry most about is an English language barrier – a condition for employment, anywhere and everywhere – standing in the way of their growth and development,” said the queen.
Wednesday 30/09/2020
Jordan’s Queen Rania arrives for the opening of Parliament in Amman, Jordan, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. ( AFP)
Jordan’s Queen Rania arrives for the opening of Parliament in Amman, Jordan, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AFP)

AMMAN –Unemployment is plaguing thousands of Jordanian youth, especially those with higher education degrees, amid a stifling economic crisis that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Decision-makers are concerned that the economic turbulence could soon bubble into social unrest if realistic solutions are not forged.

In a move to reach out to young Jordanians and address their concerns, the wife of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Queen Rania, wrote a post on Facebook lamenting the difficult prospects of the nation’s youth.

In her post, the queen pointed out that the English language barrier is a major obstacle to young people in the kingdom.

The coronavirus “pandemic has taken a serious toll on our physical and mental wellbeing, and our priorities. But we are all in this together,” Queen Rania wrote.

“The COVID 19 pandemic has dominated all our conversations, followed by the question: ‘what next?’ I have been hearing this question over the years from bright young Jordanians, especially when it comes to their future, jobs, and education. And it pains me that one of the things our nation’s youth worry most about is an English language barrier – a condition for employment, anywhere and everywhere – standing in the way of their growth and development,” she added.

Queen Rania Al Abdullah. (www.queenrania.jo)
Queen Rania Al Abdullah. (www.queenrania.jo)

Queen Rania noted that she had asked “the team at Edraak to build a world class online English learning solution targeting adults that meets global education standards.”

“It is my hope that you will benefit from this programme, which is designed to meet your unique English language needs and is free of charge like all of Edraak’s online courses,” she added.

Queen Rania has focused her attention on Jordan’s education sector and owns a teacher training academy and several subsidiary institutions. Her efforts have sometimes drawn controversy at home and abroad, with some accusing her of interfering in the sector’s politics.

Observers believe that while her free English language initiative is a positive step, it should not be viewed as a “magic solution” for Jordan’s large number of unemployed youth, and that there is a need for the country to review educational policies and bring them in line with the job market.

Over the past two years, several initiatives have been put forward to address the kingdom’s worsening unemployment rate, most recently a “service of knowledge” initiative. However, these initiatives have failed to provide long-term solutions or significantly draw in the nation’s youth.

During the second quarter of this year, Jordan’s unemployment rate reached 23%, an increase of 3.8% compared to the same period last year. The unemployment rate, especially among those with university degrees, shot up to 26.6%, according to the Department of Statistics.

Figures showed that 51.6% of those unemployed hold a high school diploma.

Jordanian youth are struggling to cope with stressful economic and social conditions that show little sign of improving soon.

Amid concern about the country’s ability to provide new opportunities for its many unemployed, there is a growing push to encourage youth to engage in initiatives and for those educated to pursue jobs previously done by expatriate workers.

On Monday, Jordan’s official Petra news agency published a lengthy investigation about a university initiative in the governorate of Zarqa that offers services through WhatsApp, including cleaning houses and gardens, trimming trees, washing carpets, dismantling and installing safes, transporting and cleaning warehouses and washing cars and general maintenance.

“We provide our services to all governorates of Jordan upon request, and not exclusively to the Zarqa Governorate,” student Abdul Zadir Abu Khadija told Petra. “For example, today I collected 30 dinars for one of the aforementioned housework. We are happy with this work and there has been a turnout that we did not expect, in addition to widespread community interaction.”

People walk during a march from the city of Aqaba south of the capital, demanding more employment opportunities, on the highway near Amman, Jordan, February 20, 2019. (AFP)
People walk during a march from the city of Aqaba south of the capital, demanding more employment opportunities, on the highway near Amman, Jordan, February 20, 2019. (AFP)

Youth activist Amani al-Majali said the initiative was especially important given the country’s difficult economic conditions worsened by the coronavirus.

Majali said that youth have to work together to devise ways to earn a living in order to be self-reliant and provide services to the community.

Majali said Petra’s investigation sheds light on the importance of youth initiatives in reinforcing a culture of entrepreneurship.

Youth could be the ideal nucleus for major projects later, she said.

The Jordanian state’s effort to change the prevailing work culture in an attempt to reduce the unemployment rate is seen as a necessary step. However, the task is difficult as many are reluctant to switch career paths or face pressure from their family or community regarding their profession.