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Life in East Jerusalem

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Despite Israel's obligation to provide East Jerusalem children free education, "thousands (there) remain outside of the school system each year."

At issue is willful disdain and neglect. As a result, Arab schools face:

  • a severe classroom shortage causing overcrowding in poorly maintained facilities;

  • high dropout rates; and

  • thousands of children foced into unofficial schools at great cost for parents pressed to afford it.

Israel neglected East Jerusalem schools for many years. Arab children aren't treated like Jewish ones.

Nearly 4,400 aren't registered in any educational institution. In February 2011, Israel's High Court ordered authorities to pay tuition costs for children forced to attend "recognized but unofficial" schools because of classroom shortages.

So far, implementation hasn't followed. ACRI asked the Director of the Jerusalem Education Administration for action. In recent years, it submitted numerous petitions ahead of the opening of each school year with limited success.

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According to Israel's State Comptroller in 2009, East Jerusalem faces a 1,000 classroom shortage. A decade earlier it was higher. Construction, however, fell far short of meeting needs.

A "substantial gap between the needs of the growing population and the existing number of classrooms" poses an unresolved problem. Addressing it is essential.

According to official Jerusalem Education Administration (MANHI) figures, more than half of Arab classrooms are substandard. 

On September 5, ACRI petitioned the Jerusalem Administrative Court "about the current administration budgets of the official public schools in East Jerusalem."

Despite MANHI recommendations, Jerusalem's municipality included one-third of the required budget. ACRI petitioned to have the Ministry of Education "actually budget the official educational institutions in East Jerusalem according to their needs."

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Besides a severe classroom shortage, inadequate numbers of professional personnel are available, "including educational advisors, psychologists and inspectors."

Textbooks and an official curriculum are also at issue. The Knesset education committee, headed by MK Alex Miller, wants Israel's curriculum taught East Jerusalem children.

At risk is no longer teaching Palestinian heritage, identity and culture. Provisions of Oslo permit it. International law mandates it. Imposing Israeli curriculum in place of its own poses a grave legal violation if implemented.

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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