HIGH-SCHOOLERS IN Jerusalem last week protesting the cancellation of field trips.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
When the Secondary School Teacher’s Association announced a moratorium on field trips for high school students, the students took matters into their own hands.
“I’m here right now, and I just look around and it’s beautiful,” said Yuvall Sadon, speaking on Wednesday from the hills of Sataf outside Jerusalem where she had organized a field trip for high school students from across the country.
Hundreds of thousands of students skipped class, instead congregating outside school gates to protest or taking field trips of their own.
“We have a right to go on trips, to know our land,” said Sadon, a 12th-grader and the southern regional head of the National Student and Youth Council, which organized the walkout.
The strike is not just a mass case of students playing hooky. Rather, the students hope to pressure the Education Ministry and the teachers’ union to settle an ongoing struggle over teacher liability on field trips.
The dispute turns on whether teachers can be held accountable for students who are injured or killed during educational outings.
In response to a failure by the ministry to guarantee their immunity, the teachers announced they would cancel all field trips.
But the students were unwilling to be the losers in a struggle between teachers and the government.
“We were forced to go on strike because we respect the teachers and their fight but we don’t want them to do it on our back,” said Yam Borochov, a national representative for the student group.
“I’m in my senior year – if I don’t go [on these field trips] this year I will never go again,” he said.
He said that seventh, eighth- and 10th-graders at his school would be deprived of planned field trips.
Students organized educational hikes in locations across the country, from Zichron Ya’acov and Carmel in the North to Beersheba in the South. In other sites, they joined with parents and some teachers and administrators to rally outside their schools.
“We hope that it will not be necessary to do another event like this because we want a solution, and we want a solution right now,” said Lee Katzir, the vice chairwoman of the National Student and Youth Council.
Katzir stressed that students do not want to miss school, particularly in light of upcoming matriculation exams.
“It’s not a win-win situation,” she said. “We want to do something about this – we want a solution right now so that students will come back to school and not lose schooldays.”
Nonetheless, students made the most of their time outside the classroom.
In Sataf, they participated in guided hikes organized by Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Rich in both native ecology and ancient structures, Sataf provided students an opportunity to forge a connection with the country’s natural beauty.
“We talk with each other about important facts like what it means to me, what Israel means to me, what Jerusalem means to me,” said Sadon. “When you know your country you can love her and you feel commitment to her.”
Sadon said the response from teachers generally has been supportive. In particular, she said her civics teacher approached her to applaud a job well done.
“This teacher said to me, ‘Wow, Yuval, I’m proud of you, you took what you learned in your lessons, and now you’re doing it!” The students said they were confident their action will put pressure on the teachers union and the Education Ministry to reach a settlement.
“It will work,” said Sadon. “The question is when.”