Group: Education system failing in East Jerusalem
Published Monday 02/09/2013 (updated) 05/09/2013 12:01
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A report published Monday by an Israeli rights group reveals "deep gaps" in the education system for Palestinians and Israelis in Jerusalem.
The report published by Ir Amim and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel found that there is a severe shortage of classrooms in East Jerusalem, a higher dropout rate and "tremendous disparities" in the allocation of professional positions between the two educational systems.
"The enormous shortage in classrooms, budgets, personnel and educational programming constitutes a serious violation of the right to education of tens of thousands of Palestinian schoolchildren in Jerusalem," director of ACRI's East Jerusalem Project Ronit Sela said.
Israel's ministry of education budgeted around 12,000 shekels ($3,335) per student for Palestinian high schools, whereas an average of 25,500 shekels ($7,087) was budgeted for Jewish national-religious state schools and 24,500 shekels ($6,809) for secular Jewish schools.
A high dropout rate in East Jerusalem means that 36 percent of Palestinian children do not complete a full 12 years of education, and schools in East Jerusalem suffer from a severe shortage in dropout prevention programs, the report says.
In 2011, the dropout rate in Jewish secondary schools in West Jerusalem was one percent whereas the total dropout rate across all ages in Palestinian schools was 13 percent.
The disparities are even greater in the case of school counselors, whose role is critical in providing psychological support and preventing dropout.
Only 29 school counselors operate in East Jerusalem compared to some 250 counselors in West Jerusalem, the report said.
There is also a severe shortage of classrooms in East Jerusalem schools, totaling more than 2,300, which the Jerusalem municipality blames on a scarcity of land in East Jerusalem.
The report states, however, that Israel's planning policy in East Jerusalem is "harnessed to discriminatory demographic goals—the primary explanation for the existing shortage of classrooms in East Jerusalem."
"Deep disparities in the educational system are not accidental but rather the product of policy making that finds expression in lack of funding, resources and efforts to ameliorate the current situation," the report concluded.
Oshrat Maimon, policy advocacy director at Ir Amim, said that the candidates for mayor in October municipal elections are devoting their energy to satisfying the demands of the Israeli nationalist right in Jerusalem.
"Life in Jerusalem cannot continue to operate as business as usual: while parents in West Jerusalem are excited about their children's first day in school, a few meters away parents in East Jerusalem don't know if there will even be a place in school for their children.
"This gap, which continues to increase every year, requires an urgent response from elected officials in both the Municipality and the government. It requires a paradigm shift in priorities and those who adhere to democratic values must see to it that it is done."
Over 84 percent of Palestinian children live below the poverty line and there has been a 10 percent increase in overall poverty rates since 2006.
Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967 and formally annexed the area in 1980 after passing the 'Jerusalem Law'.