As the first week of the new school year commences, the Association for Civil
Rights in Israel (ACRI) and the NGO Ir Amim released a sobering annual report
delineating the dire shortfall of education infrastructure and standards in east
Jerusalem compared to west Jerusalem.
The report, released Monday,
concluded that the Jerusalem Municipality and Education Ministry are doing
little to meet a 2011 High Court ruling that ordered the completion of 2,200
classrooms in the eastern part of the capital by 2016.
In February 2011,
the court imposed two mandates on the state: the completion of the
infrastructure necessary to admit east Jerusalem students to official municipal
schools; and a marked increase in the funding of “unofficial” but recognized,
institutions absorbing the remaining students.
Acknowledging that the
infrastructure shortage was too significant to remedy over a brief span of time,
the court gave the municipality and the state until 2016 to implement the
Despite Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s assertions that the
municipality has invested significantly more than previous administrations in
improving the educational infrastructure of east Jerusalem, the report stated
that since 2009 only 150 new classrooms have been completed.
according to the report, the total Arab dropout rate in east Jerusalem was 13
percent. Comparatively, it stated that in 2011 the dropout rate in west
Jerusalem was 1%.
Furthermore, during the 2012-2013 school year, the
report found that 10% of Arab children in the 8th and 9th grades were not
enrolled in any educational institution, while 20% of 10th-graders and 30% of
11th-graders were not enrolled.
“The result is that 36% of children in
east Jerusalem fail to complete a full 12 years of school,” the report
Another section in the report found a pronounced disparity in the
allocation of school guidance counselors, with only 29 counselors assigned to
east Jerusalem, compared to 250 counselors in west Jerusalem.
of parity was exacerbated, the report stated, due to the difficult socioeconomic
conditions many Arab families face – relative to their west Jerusalem
counterparts – and the dire need for school personnel to support
In a strongly worded statement, Oshrat Maimon, the policy
advocacy director at Ir Amim, accused both mayoral candidates – Barkat and Moshe
Lion – of catering to right-wing nationalists at the expense of Palestinian
“It is regrettable that instead of attending to the existing
gaps, the candidates for mayor choose to devote their energy and resources to
satisfying the demands of the nationalist right in Jerusalem,” said
Maimon also noted that the gap between the educational standards
in the eastern and western sections of the capital continues to grow
exponentially each year, and therefore requires an urgent response from elected
officials in both the municipality and the government.
requires a paradigm shift in priorities and those who adhere to democratic
values must see to it that it is done,” she said.
Ronit Sela, director of
ACRI’s East Jerusalem Projects added that the enormous shortage in east
Jerusalem classrooms, budgets, personnel and educational programming constitutes
a “serious violation of the right to education of tens of thousands of
In response to the report, the municipality
issued a statement defending Barkat’s efforts, and accused ACRI and Ir Amin of
“recycling the same distorted annual report” ignoring the municipality’s strides
to reverse “40 years of neglect” in east Jerusalem.
Barkat’s tenure, hundreds of new classrooms were built in east Jerusalem,” the
“The municipality invested an unprecedented amount of
more than NIS 400 million in the construction of 400 additional
Apart from the construction of new classrooms and schools,
the municipality said it is actively promoting a “technological revolution” in
east Jerusalem, in which the city will distribute 1,720 computers to
kindergartens and teachers in east Jerusalem, and 350 additional computers for
The municipality added that since last year it invested
NIS 1 million of the city’s budget to create a new plan to teach science and
math-related subjects in east Jerusalem.
“The purpose of the program is
to increase the percentage of students who take final science exams, as well as
to open a variety of options for students in the education and vocational
training sectors to help them enter the labor market in the future,” the
The municipality went on to claim to be leading the
effort to curb east Jerusalem’s high dropout rate by allocating an additional
budget of NIS 1 million to create an “unprecedented” preventative
“This is an unprecedented decision by the mayor to invest in the
problem after years of neglect,” it said.
“The new budget will bring a
significant amount of new plans to deal with the problem of high-school
dropouts, as well as the emotional and behavioral aspects alongside the learning
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.