East Jerusalem classroom. State saves millions of shekels
Photo: Noam Moskowitz

Arab kids deserve equality

Op-ed: Israel shuns duty as east Jerusalem schools only have room for half of pupils

When Israel annexed east Jerusalem in 1967, it applied the legal right to free public education to all the Arab children residing there. In practice, though, there is only enough space in the Arab public schools for about half the pupils. By not teaching the other half of the pupils, the State saves millions of shekels each year, while violating Israeli law and the consensus in developed countries that every child has a basic right to free public education.


Thousands of Arab children who want to study in public school are rejected for wont of space. Their parents must send them to “private” schools and pay their tuition. If they cannot pay the tuition, their children do not go to any school.


Should we behave like a Western society and pay for these children’s education, or like a third-world country and deny them free studies?


The ethical solution, of course, is for the State to reimburse the tuition of those children who applied for public school and were rejected (because of the serious lack of classrooms), in accordance with the Law for Compulsory Free Education, which applies to them.


Until now, the High Court of Justice has tried valiantly to force the authorities to build the missing classrooms. Unfortunately, our authorities are expert at ignoring court orders; although the Court has succeeded in getting some classrooms built, there are still thousands of children who are denied public education, and who cannot wait years until new schools may ultimately be built.


Court evades petitions

In the past decade Arab children have petitioned the High Court of Justice (with the help of the Ir Amim group and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel) calling for the Treasury to reimburse their parents for the tuition they were forced to pay for their studies in non-public schools.


The Ministry of Education responded to the Court: “Requiring the Ministry of Education to pay 100% of the educational expenses of the students who are learning in (Arab “private”) schools … would be a most heavy burden on the Ministry of Education’s limited budget…. When we speak about a limited budgetary ‘cake’, requiring the Ministry of Education to budget the full educational expenses of the approximately 40,000 east Jerusalem students who are not studying in public schools, is liable to damage the abilities of the Ministry….”


The High Court of Justice is well aware that paying for these children’s education would require sharing budgets which today are spent on Jewish children’s schooling. Until now the Court has found technical reasons for keeping the petitions from succeeding – and consequently Jewish children’s education budgets have been preserved – but has trampled on the principle of free education for all who want it. However, the cases are still pending.


Education requires funding. A democratic first-world State must spend what is needed for an education system which is fair, egalitarian, and ethical.


Hillel Bardin is a volunteer in Jerusalem working with others towards free public education for all who desire it



פרסום ראשון: 08.31.10, 00:46
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