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For example, Amman’s Diodoros I School is currently the most expensive in the system, charging $700 a year for a child to attend kindergarten and $2,100 for a senior — a fraction of the fees charged by comparable private schools in Amman.

By contrast, at some Orthodox schools,especially those in poor rural communities, tuition is markedly less. In Anjara, a small town in northern Jordan, the annual tuition at the local Orthodox school hovers around $140. Still, a disproportionately high number of the enrolled students require financial aid.

The most important thing in this school is to have rules, norms,” says Susha Kahwaji, principal of New Orthodox School in Madaba. “We cannot only teach math and Arabic, we must also teach values. How do we prepare children to contribute to society?”

A flagship of the Jerusalem patriarchate’s school system in Jordan, New Orthodox School has grown dramatically in the last decade and continues to lead in innovation. Before Archimandrite Innokentios’s reforms, the school was a disheveled, six-room affair.

Today, it includes three buildings and enrolls some 1,300 students from kindergarten through grade 12. Until grade 5, the school is coeducational and from grades 6 to 12, girls only. Half the students are Christian from various denominations; half are Muslim.

“If you see the pictures from the past, you will see nothing,” says Ms. Kahwaji. “Father Innokentios started everything here.”

Before he was charged with the administration of the entire system, the priest oversaw New Orthodox School, from when he was appointed the head of Madaba’s Greek Orthodox community in 1994.

One of the school’s innovative programs is a preparation course for the Cambridge University English Language Exam. Open to all members of the community, the program costs participants $500 — a fraction of what most language schools charge. The school keeps costs down by employing native-speaking volunteers, who work for housing and a small stipend. On average, 90 percent of those who complete the program and take the examination pass it.

Ms. Kahwaji does not dwell on the school’s accomplishments. “I see lots of things I want to develop,” she says.

Each week, she meets with teachers to discuss new teaching methods and ways to “develop the characters” of their students. Currently, she is trying to establish sports teams and other extracurricular activities.

Support from Archimandrite Innokentios and Mr. Eid has been invaluable, she adds. “They give me a space in order to work with creativity … without it you’re stuck in a box.”

She recalls one of the priest’s mantras: “If you want to change a society, or add to that society or culture, build a school.”

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Contributors Nicholas Seeley and Joseph Zakarian live and work in Amman.



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