The Supreme Court slammed the Education Ministry and the Eilat Municipality on Thursday for trying to create a “separate-but-equal” school for the children of migrants in Eilat.

Most of the children in question come from families from South Sudan, Sudan and Eritrea. The court was addressing an appeal of an August 2 Beersheba Administrative Court ruling.

Although the state could not give a specific number of students, citing problems with locating parents and that some families were only in Eilat on a transient basis, the numbers mostly discussed with the justices ranged around 50 students.

The state said that it had tried to integrate migrant children and that it had been a dismal failure. It also argued that it was not in the interest of a high-school-age-migrant child whose academic level was equal to a fourth-grader, to be put in high school for academic reasons, or in fourth grade for social ones.

The state argued that the concept of the separate-but-equal school is in the migrant’s interest, allowing the child to develop at his own pace, as is sometimes done with new immigrants when they first arrive.

The three justices sitting on the panel expressed surprise that, with days to go before school starts on Monday, the state was only now presenting this solution and still seemed unsure about many details regarding the situation.

Justices Salim Joubran and Ori Shoham reminded the state that it had managed to integrate Ethiopian students despite a public outcry from some parents and officials.

Jourbran said that the State of Israel in the 21st century had an obligation to do better.

He asked the state, “Isn’t it your job as the Ministry of Education to improve weaker students” like those in question in this case in order that they “become stronger” students? Jourbran also cautioned that simply ignoring the problem now was a failure to confront the issue seriously that would only broaden the education gap over time.

Justice Yoram Danziger expressed disbelief that a separate but equal solution would be accepted in other countries for a particular ethnic group simply because there were difficulties with educational integration.

He added that he personally – along with the other justices – found it difficult to stomach such a solution.

The court ordered the parties to meet immediately and to find a new compromise solution later on Thursday or on Sunday.

Until now many of the children had been in an ad hoc school run by a man named Israel Nahari. The school, which has closed, dealt with kids ages five-17, split into only four separate levels and with no set curriculum.

Nahari previously said that the students learned a lot of Hebrew and math, with limited exposure to other subjects.

In a sense, the old ad hoc school was more of a place for migrant parents – primarily working in the hotels – to drop their children off and have them learn something, since the municipality had done nothing to absorb them into its education system.

Ben Hartman contributed to this report.

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