Students who were evacuated in August from settlements in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank under the disengagement plan are demanding the government exempt them from tuition fees for the upcoming academic year.
The students backed their demands with claims that they have been struggling to adapt to new lives at temporary housing facilities following the trauma of eviction.
The demand has been submitted to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Education Minister Limor Livnat just a week ahead of the start of the academic year.
“The government carried out a process and it is its responsibility to look for people who suffered from its actions, including students, who haven’t even a place to live. Compensation funds still haven’t reached evacuated families and students have no money to study,” Liron Ziden, a leader in the anti-disengagement camp, said Wednesday.
Ayelet Shreiber, a 20-year-old student in Ashkelon and a former resident of Netzarim, said that the disengagement plan affected her studies already last year before its August implementation.
Gamliel: They need ‘breathing room’
“My head was not in studies because I was fighting for my home and I had no time to work,” she said.
“At the moment, after the disengagement, I have no place to live and I haven’t got enough money to pay for students dormitories at college. My parents are trying to help as much as they can, yet if the situation remains the same I’ll have to quit college. I hope they will care for us because it’s the government that put us in this situation,” Shreiber added.
In light of the claims, Knesset Member Gila Gamliel (Likud) sent a letter to Livnat, demanding that relatives of the evacuees be exempt from paying tuition.
“Despite the government’s efforts to prepare accordingly for the evacuation via the Disengagement Authority, it is clear that a solution has not been found for the evacuees’ plight,” she said in the letter.
“More than 40 percent of them remain unemployed; this results in problems that did not exist prior to the evacuation of the settlers from their homes,” she continued.
According to Gamliel, some of the students’ problems stem from economic troubles caused by delays in compensation payments and the refusal of banks to assist the evacuees in their mortgage payments, even though the homes they are paying for no longer exist.
“Exemption from paying tuition may offer the evacuees some ‘breathing room’ they greatly need as they rebuild their homes and communities,” she said.
Student Union Chairman Assaf Segev said, “we support the offering of reduced tuition fees to Gush Katif evacuees, even to the extent of canceling them altogether, and therefore we support Gamliel’s proposal.”