Only A few kilometres south of Ajloun in the north of Jordan, is the mainly Muslim town of Anjara. The environment is poor with the occupation outside the town being mainly in agriculture. There are many low income families working in unskilled jobs.
It is believed, as it is situated in the hills of Gilead east of the Jordan valley, that Jesus and his mother Mary passed through the town and rested here in a cave. To commemorate this, Father Yousef Salmeh Nammat has built a modern shrine to Our Lady of the Mountain next to the school. This was one of the four pilgrimage sites, designated in the year 2000, by the Catholic Churches in the Middle East. The main pilgrimage takes place each year on the 10th June when over 5000 pilgrims descend on the town.
The school was first established in 1890 in a small building which is no longer in use. It had two classrooms on the ground floor with four more rooms above. As the school expanded another building was constructed to provide more rooms. This also is not used and in need of renovation. If this could be done it would provide more useful classrooms.
In 1922 a third large building was constructed at right angles to the original school. This building now separates the two play areas. The upper floors are in use as a hostel.
The Latin Patriarchte School:
The Kindergarten is on the ground floor of this building in very small rooms and has no separate play area and no outside equipment. The small classrooms are in need of refurbishment.
Also on the ground floor is a combined library and computer room. There are only thirteen computers, which have to be shared between pupils. The room can hardly be referred to as a library there being very few books. Certainly they are insufficient for the numbers of children using them.
In 1981 a new school was built on the site, designed by a local architect from the village in a most unusual design. Father Yousef was also responsible for the construction of this building. It has three floors on a six sided plan with the classrooms placed around a central area with the staircase to one side. On the ground floor are three classrooms with the Principals office and two Staff rooms. The first floor has five classrooms and the complete top floor is o ne large multipurpose hall. The Entrance Hall and classrooms are decorated with murals painted by an Italian artist.
Unfortunately this is not a good design for a school, providing oddly shaped classrooms with stone stairs and no inside toilet facilities. These are outside for both children and staff. During the cold winters it is not possible to heat the classrooms, only the offices and the Kindergarten having portable gas heaters in use.
The site of the school complex is rectangular, on which three buildings are not in use because of their deteriorating condition. The present Principal was previously a teacher in the school. She told me that her father had been one of the builders of the present school. Her Staff consists of a secretary and fifteen teachers who are all female. Fourteen of them are Christian and one Muslim. The school roll has 152 children, 82 boys and 70 girls of whom 100 are Christian and 52 Muslim. The classes average between 20 and 30 pupils.
As the school only caters for children up to the 8th Grade, after this they attend government schools but return on Saturdays for Religious Instruction.
Anjara: Saint Elijah
Pastor: Rev. Hugo Alaniz, IVE