4 months, 32 hours drive, and 15 students!

Since April, I have been visiting Thaibeh Secondary School every Sunday, the first day of the week in Jordan. The drive from the 4th circle to Thaibeh which is located 20 KM away from Sahab (South of Amman) takes an hour. I arrive at the school at 10am with Halla, who is from INJAZ and leave back to Amman to my office at 2PM.

Was it worth it?

Heck yeah! Every minute!

Read more to know why…

I was contacted by my friend Fawzi Barghouthi from INJAZ informing me about the “Company” project. This is a competition between public schools in Jordan for 11th graders to create a company (not registered) which delivers services and products to the local community. The school with the best project and most innovative idea will win and go to the UAE to compete with other schools from the Arab world.

Well, Thaibeh wasn’t an easy choice, besides the distance, the village is very under developed. It’s in the middle of no where. The children have to walk 5 KMs to get to an Internet center (they all have Facebook!). The village has no entertainment for the children, no parks, no traffic lights. Jobs are scare. 30% of the children at school pass 12th grade, the rest either quit and go support their families or pass and go join the army or police. The easiest and most secured way out!

(Note: out of respect to the students, I didn’t post pictures of the bathroom they use, terrible situation!)

When I first met the team, they were 20 young boys. Then during the coming period they dropped to 15, 10 then 5 only!

The first few visits were not easy for me as a volunteer. Though the kids were very smart and polite but they were careless, didn’t see any future for them to get a decent job or even a chance to enter a university or college! And here I am coming from west Amman with my iPhone and smart suit and telling them to do a business plan for a company and talk about some power point presentations.

I will definitely not serve the purpose of this program, unless I was able to inspire the kids and tell stories about people who have made it in this world, including myself. Well, that wasn’t enough!

The first few weeks were theoretical, we talked about how to create and operate a business, choose a product, business plans, and market research. We discussed the structure of the company, departments, tasks, etc..

The children had many ideas, and they were all focused on developing and benefiting the local community. This was their main goal. They suggested an arcade place for the kids, T-shirts done by the locals, photography calendar for the important historical sites in the area to bring tourists to their village!

Smart kids by all means! But they need a push and some guidance. But they are brain washed by the system. That system includes the teachers, education and their families who put them down. The principal told me in front of the students…”I have no idea why you guys are troubling yourself with them, they will join the Army or Police at the end!”

One student who was extremely smart with numbers and financial reports and was later appointed the finance manager in the company, told me when I informed him that I will get him a job when he graduates, said..”Why do I need to bother to get a job in Amman, all jobs in Amman for Ammanis only. I won’t even care, I want to join the army and get my 500Jds in 2 years time!”

Another easy way out. That kid didn’t finish the program with us as he had to work a summer job to support his family!

The students performed an election and they elected the CEO and VP and then chose the manager of every department. They called their team “Tomorrow’s Youth” and the company “The Red Thread

They specified the capital needed and started collecting it by selling stocks to their friends and people in the village. Then after researching the products they will produce, they found a local shop that will benefit from the project and started producing.

The company will produce the traditional Jordanian kuffeyeh (scarf) but in different colors and models that will attract many people in the village and therefore have an edge. Below are some pictures:

(Selling stocks)

The students began selling at bazars and they found out that some items were more wanted than others, so they produced more arm bands and scarfs.

On Wednesday, the competition day, the students showcased their products infront of 5 judges, then did a presentation about their company and future plans.

(Company’s booth)

(infront of the judges)

(Group picture before announcing the winner with the teacher and Halla)

Unfortunately the school didn’t win. But the kids were still excited from their experience that hopefully they learned something. Next year is Grade 12 (Tawjihi), they will be very busy studying but I hope I can manage to visit them.

Before they leave the hotel after the competition, they had 2 requests:

1. Have Internet access at their school

2. To be taught some computer skills

4 months ago I was really excited that I will be able to inspire some  young kids, I was wrong again, they are the ones who inspired me….an experience I will not forget!

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