The Arab Episcopal School (AES)

The AES is a private Christian school belonging to the Anglican Church in the Middle East. It works according to peace education principles.

  • Playschool
  • School
  • Leisure area
  • College of teachers
  • School Management
  • Extra-curricular activities

Besuche an der AES sind möglich – schreiben Sie an Pfarrer Samir Esaid (Kontakt)

Kinder an der AES
Kinder an der AES
Die Kinder freuen sich am neuen Sportplatz an der AES

The history of the Arab Episcopal School (AES) in Irbid

The Anglican pastor Samir Esaid came after his theological studies in Cairo for an internship in different institutions in the area of the Württemberg state church. Among others, he was in the Paulinenpflege Winnenden, the Gustav Werner Foundation Reutlingen and the Herrenberg Diaconal Sisterhood. Within the church district of Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, Esaid was a partner in a church partnership between the deanery of Zuffenhausen and the two cities of Ramallah/Westbank and Haifa/Israel. As parish priest in Ramallah, Esaid together with Deacon Gunter Hell in Zuffenhausen shaped the partnership work in the church district. Both had a considerable influence on the partnership work.

2001 Pastor Esaid is transferred and takes over two parishes in the city of Irbid/Jordan and Husson.

On this new site he finds an empty parish hall, which has not been used for 10 years. He consults with the social services of the city and with a specialist for the disabled from the Anglican Church of Jordan and is encouraged to do something for blind children.

In 2002/03 he is given a grant of €10,000.00 by the Anglican Church in Jerusalem. He can convert the lower floor of the house into a kindergarten.

The first employees are hired and an integrated kindergarten for blind, visually impaired and seeing children is established. (In Jordan and in the Arab world, unfortunately, due to marriages between relatives, there are many disabled children, who are usually hidden and concealed in the family).

In the meantime, the kindergarten has been in existence since 2003. 30 children have been admitted, 10 of which are blind or severely visually impaired. And some children are still on the waiting list.

2005 When the older children had to leave kindergarten, they were to be admitted to nearby schools. However, these schools were not equipped for blind children and so admission was refused. The nearest school for blind children is in Amman, which means boarding school accommodation and high costs for the parents, who in Irbid are mostly from the social milieu (some of them live in refugee camps for Palestinians).

One child from his kindergarten was “not transferred” in 2004, as there are only two options for this child and later for the other children:

  1. Back into the family, where he will wither away or
  2. Pastor Samir is extending the upper floor of the parish hall in order to open a school every year later.

Pastor Esaid now dreamed of an integrating primary school, so that disabled children would also have a chance to live and also the sighted children would learn to live with blind, disabled children. He was able to start with this school in September 2005. Classrooms on the upper floor will be rebuilt (classroom, toilet facilities, small kitchen, teachers’ room, office etc.). The first female teachers are employed.

Through the Christoffel-Blindenmission (CBM) he receives his own contribution for the integrated kindergarten and for the integrated school for blind children and two blind teachers are financed.

On 1.9. 2005 the first class in Irbid starts with a total of1 11 children (three blind, two visually impaired and six sighted children).

An American church donated a large sum of money for a bus that now picks up the children every day and brings them back home.

The kindergarten is quickly replenished to 30 children.

2006 As of 1.1.2006 there are already 41 children in kindergarten and school.

11 employees have been hired. Since this year Samir Esaid has been making an annual collection trip to Germany to ask for money for salaries. He organizes this with Gunter Hell.

In autumn 2006 the building will be further rebuilt and new classrooms will be prepared. Four requests from his own community come and so a 3rd class is opened. In the meantime there is also an inquiry from a blind child for the 3rd class. So in autumn 06 the second and a third class were started. The kindergarten is being refilled. It is intended that 1/3 blind and 1/3 visually impaired children will be accepted.

80 children will be in the kindergarten and in three school classes from autumn 2006. Of course, teachers, educators and helpers will also be involved. (16 employees, plus a bus driver and a secretary, the majority are Christians. But there are also Muslim teachers who work peacefully together)

In April 2007 there are 81 pupils in kindergarten and school (up to the third grade). Thereof 12 blind children, 10 severely visually impaired children. 14 teachers/educators, 2 FSJ’s, 2 bus drivers, 1 bus escort, 1 cleaning lady, 1 caretaker. (21 employees). A further extension is planned for the next four classrooms. The most ardent wish: a board camera and accessories and a Braille typewriter for every child from the 3rd grade.

Visit of E. L. Vatter (member of the High Council of the Württemberg State Church as a partner of the Anglican Church) and Pastor Andreas Mauerer (head of the Evangelical Mission in Solidarity (ems)) to Irbid. A good building cost subsidy from the Württemberg State Church was promised.

In summer 2007 Pastor Samir Esaid will be back in Germany to give lectures.

Summer/autumn 2007: During the summer holidays, a bridge will be built between the residential building and the school with four school classes and administration rooms. This is made possible by the building cost subsidy of the State Church of Württemberg.

The school and kindergarten will start on September 1, 2007. The 4th class will be opened. About 100 children are now in the kindergarten and school. 1/3 of them are blind and severely visually impaired.

2008 The school and kindergarten continue to run very well. About 20 employees have been hired in the meantime, four of them are blind. The employees work as teachers, educators, helpers, two volunteers from Germany and Canada, administrative staff, 2 bus drivers.

From 16. 6. to 5.7.08 Pastor Samir is here in Germany and is looking for contacts to churches in the area of Wuerttemberg, Thuringia and Northern Germany. At the end of August 2008 the 5th grade will start. There are many registrations, including again many blind children. 130 children have been admitted and 25 staff members have been hired.

2009 now the 6th grade starts after the summer holidays. There is space in the kindergarten again and the number of children grows to about 150 children and about 30 teachers and staff are employed. 40% of the costs are covered by parental contributions. The missing 60% of the budget is covered by donations, mainly through Samir Esaid’s round trips in Germany. Donations also come from other churches worldwide. The foreign embassies become aware of the institution, especially since a great recognition by an international competition for exemplary work with the disabled is rewarded with a first place.

In summer 2009 Samir and his congregation in Al Husn entered into a partnership with the South German congregation of Oberjesingen near Herrenberg. A fruitful cooperation with the Nikolauspflege from Stuttgart develops (expert advice: teachers go to Irbid or interns travel to Stuttgart to observe).

In autumn a jazz band from Eisenach is on a charity tour through Jordan. After deducting expenses, a small amount is also donated to the school. Since then there are good contacts to each other.

2010 the Canadian Embassy donates a sum of money for visual aids for the visually impaired. Thanks to contacts made at the International Fair for the Blind in Frankfurt, Samir can contact a company where he can buy technical aids at low prices.

A Palestinian women’s initiative, which still occupies some rooms on the premises, wants to move out and Samir gets the three large basement rooms. They must now be furnished accordingly. An early education and a toddler group is to be set up here.

After the summer a 7th school class should be opened, but there are no further classrooms available. It is being considered whether money is now being sought to add another storey to the bridge construction built in 2007, which is technically possible. The number of children: 151 children. Blind and visually impaired children are about 26 of them. There are now 35 employees.

Samirs was again on a collection trip in Germany from 22.6. to 10.7.2010

During Samir’s trip it becomes clear that a construction over the bridge is probably the most urgent thing now, so that in 2011 a 7th class can be opened after all and then another class every year until the 10th class is reached when compulsory education ends.

The extension cost about 90.000,00 €. The question of financing was difficult. In addition, three more teachers per class and the school material were needed.

2011 Thanks to the Evangelical Church of Württemberg and the Umbrella Organisation of Work with the Blind in Germany (DBWV) a generous grant will be given for the extension. The reconstruction measures will begin with the first day of the Jordanian summer holidays. With the start of the school the shell of the building is finished. Before Christmas 2011 the extension will be finished and therefore there will be classrooms up to class 10, a spacious PC classroom and a chemistry/biology room. In addition, there is now a guest apartment on the roof of the residential building where guests can sleep.

2012 The 8th grade begins after Samir’s collection trip to Germany. Children are moving up through the kindergarten and more and more blind children are registering. Now that the rooms are available, an early intervention for children from 3.5 years of age begins. This has made it possible to extend the care of the children until they reach compulsory schooling. Parents are also intensively advised there, and they are given and provided with working aids.

2013 Again and again different groups register in Irbid. This year the jazz band of Alexander Blume from Eisenach is touring again in Jordan with different concerts. Altogether there are now 214 children in kindergarten and school. 42 children are blind or visually impaired. In the school 25% are Christians and 75% Muslims. A total of 39 staff members (including three volunteers from Germany and the USA) are employed, 4 of whom are teachers themselves blind. The teachers are Christians and 15 are Muslims.

From 24.6. to 13.7.2013 there will again be a collection tour through Germany. A grammar school from Rottweil offers a school partnership. It is being considered how this partnership can be filled.

In autumn the 9th grade will start and from below new children will come to the kindergarten and the toddlers’ group. There are now almost 250 pupils at the school and in the kindergarten. New teachers have also been employed and even a man who started as a music teacher.

2014 now there are already 270 children in school and kindergarten. On the roof, a break and sports hall can be extended and in the basement, a large library for black and braille is currently being built. Intensive efforts are now being made to plan a workshop, because in one year the first children will finish their compulsory schooling. In Al Husn (neighbouring village) a site is ready for this purpose.

In April a group of blind and visually impaired people and their companions will start a study trip to Jordan. It is planned to have intensive conversations with the German blind and blind teachers and the older pupils, so that common life experiences can be exchanged. Samir Esaid will visit the Sight City fair in Frankfurt in May. His collection trip through Germany was 20 days across Germany with the success that a partner school has found (Gymnasium in Rottweil) which even before the summer holidays started a donation run in favour of the integration school. In autumn three volunteers from Germany will travel to Irbid to help for one year. With this the 10th grade has started and the number of pupils rises to over 300.

2015 now the number of over 300 students has been reached. This year, compulsory schooling ends for the first time (with the 10th grade). In the meantime the school management team is considering whether to continue with the fittings for another two years. That means until the 12th grade, so that then the Abitur will be made. For the weak graduates, unfortunately, money has not yet been collected to build up a vocational training or a kind of workshop for the disabled (WfB). Therefore they want to wait, although this task is seen as an urgent diaconal contribution.

Deacon Gunter Hell and the blind Lydia Zoubek from Frankfurt will visit the school in February 2015 to conduct a seminar with “long sticks” (the white sticks for the blind). The canes are hardly accepted in Jordan so far. They help the blind to become much more independent. With the 6 blind teachers and the older blind people, they practice and each blind person receives a stick as a gift.

A school partnership with a grammar school from Rottweil is taking shape and in March a delegation from the school with 11 pupils and 2 accompanying teachers will visit the partner school. Folk dance has been practiced. The collection trip with pastor Samir Esaid will take place in July 2015.

Long-term goal: In a neighboring community in Husson there is still a piece of land that is now being included in future plans:

Here stands a church that was closed down by the building inspectors due to an earthquake. But it is still standing without major damage. The architects believe that safety can be restored here by means of supporting pillars. A false ceiling could be installed so that the church and its grounds could one day become a workshop for the disabled or a training centre for apprentices. In this way the blind children can get a chance to get a job training.
Next to the church there is a larger building which was once the first Christian school. With the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, this school was dissolved when the English missionary withdrew. In the meantime, the house has been rented out for residential purposes. Now this house stands as a ruin in the terrain and would have to be demolished. One would have to find about 300.000,00 € to build a workshop for handicapped people.
The history of the Arab Episcopal School is like a small plant that gradually grows larger. It gives blind and visually impaired children a chance to cope with their lives increasingly independently.

Pastor Samir Esaid and/or a representative of the FII e.V. would be happy to come to your community for a talk about the AES as part of the collection tours.

You will experience an interesting lecture with the help of pictures (Power-Point), in which the Christian commitment of the churches in a Muslim country is also reported.
At the end of the lecture we ask for a collection for the work with blind and visually impaired children in Irbid/Jordan. Help us by donations and collections or by inviting them to parish circles.

I, (Deacon Gunter Hell) am at your disposal as a contact person at any time and also cordially invite you to study trips, which are carried out again and again and lead us to the Holy Lands: Israel, Jordan and of course also to contacts and social institutions of Christians. Please let me know if I can organize/offer you a next trip.

Gunter Hell, deacon, social worker and social pedagogue (Dipl. F.H.), representative for pastoral care for the blind and visually impaired in the North Church (Pomerania)

Dr. Winfried Dalferth, Dekan i.R., Chairman des FII e.V.

Förderverein Inklusionsschule Irbid – FII e.V.
Office: Zum Römerbrunnen 14, 74613 Öhringen
Tel. +49(0)7941 9600273,
Fax. +49(0)7941 9600279