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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 August 2007, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
Iraqis enrol in Jordan's schools
By Dale Gavlak
BBC News, Amman

Mustapha Maheir and his father
Previous restrictions on registration have been relaxed
Jordan has opened its schools for the first time to tens of thousands of Iraqi refugee children.

Officials said upwards of 50,000 Iraqi students could start the new term amid concerns that the wave of new pupils could overburden the system.

Previously, Iraqi children could only attend state schools if their family had a residency permit or paid fees.

However that state of affairs imposed a serious strain on the finances of most unemployed Iraqis in the country.

Mustapha Maheir, 10, and fellow Iraqi classmate Ali Abdul Jabar, 13, both arrived in the Jordanian capital Amman last year after their families fled the violence in Baghdad.

They were among those children who could not attend school because they lacked residency permits.

Overcrowding fears

Abdul said: "I feel like I've entered the gates of my old school in Baghdad. There's no difference between here and there. I am now able to join my schoolmates again."

Jordan and Syria host the biggest number of more than two million displaced Iraqis and have complained of the increasing burden on their health and education infrastructures.

Education officials said if facilities became too overcrowded, a two shift system involving morning and afternoon classes would be instituted.

Jordan said a single student cost the government $1400 (707) a year.

Human Rights Watch welcomed Jordan's decision, saying there were about 200,000 school age Iraqi children in the country of which only 10% attended classes last year.

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