Towns in the South should decide for themselves whether to open their schools next week, Knesset Education Committee chairman Amram Mitzna (Hatnua) said Sunday.
“The school year needs to begin as planned,” Mitzna said. “Throughout Israel there are areas that aren’t under threat from rockets, so the school year will start there.”
Mitzna explained that the Education Ministry will give “focused” responses in areas that are close to Gaza.
“Some towns are constantly shot at, some are hardly ever shot at,” he said.
“The Home Front Command has representatives in every area, and they can coordinate with the Education Ministry to make decisions in each town.”
Mitzna also pointed out that there are hardly any children staying in some of the towns closest to the Gaza border as Operation Protective Edge continues.
“Parents should be able to make their own judgment,” he stated.
The Education Committee will travel to the south to see the situation in schools after the academic year begins, Mitzna said, adding that “I hope by then we’ll be in a different situation.”
Also Sunday, Mitzna called for heads of universities and colleges to grant more benefits for reservists, residents of the south and other students impacted by Operation Protective Edge.
“I can’t dictate clear rules [for institutes of higher education], but I can ask them to be more flexible,” he said. “People from many places complained and commented that not enough is being done.”
Mitzna called for “flexibility and good will...
to allow more freedom and consideration of students’ needs.”
The Hatnua MK suggested several options to help students, including adding test dates and allowing them to write papers instead of taking exams.
On Thursday, Mitzna wrote in a letter to university and college heads that “the Council of Higher Education’s promise that ‘no student will be left behind because of the situation’ was appropriate, but you must implement it and I expect everyone involved to rise to the challenge and work to meet this goal.”
According to Mitzna, the institutes of higher education are following regulations to make things easier for students during a military operation, however, students are complaining that they are not receiving enough benefits.
“Operation Protective Edge surprised us all, and though I know each academic institution is responsible for its own standards for students, I am obligated to turn to you,” he wrote.
“We cannot forget that these academic frameworks are in Israel, in which a large portion of the public is carrying the burden, including reservists and many students from the South,” Mitzna added, following up on an Education Committee meeting on the topic.
“Why does one college agree to an arrangement [like writing a paper] instead of an exam and another doesn’t?” he asked.
“Why can’t all of the institutes of higher education adopt this, in addition to extending deadlines, having pass\fail grades and other solutions that you must know better than I do?” The Bar-Ilan University student union launched a protest on Wednesday over the benefits offered by the university to reservists returning from service in Operation Protective Edge.
According to the protesters, the university offered its reservists the “worst conditions” in comparison to other higher education institutions in the country.
Bar-Ilan University told The Jerusalem Post it had already widened the benefits for reservists and had already notified university students of the added assistances.
Regardless of the skirmish between the university administration and student union, Bar-Ilan stressed that it would do everything possible to ease the students’ transition back to their studies.
Lidar Grave-Lazi contributed to this report.