A program aimed at bolstering Ethiopian Israelis in higher education by allowing
young women to improve their high school grades while at the same time
fulfilling their National Service commitments, is in danger of closing in the
coming weeks, after its main sources of funding, including from the government,
have dried up.
Second Chance, which is a program of nonprofit
organization Achy – The Unity of Israeli Society, was launched in 1995 and has
since provided more than 1,000 young Ethiopian-Israeli women from disadvantaged
backgrounds with the chance to rework their matriculation scores in English and
Math. The program also offers a track to prepare them for the university
“We used to get support from the Education Ministry,
but cutbacks meant that they also cut funding to our program a few years,” Merav
Derner, Second Chance’s National Coordinator, told The Jerusalem Post on
Since then, Second Chance has had to rely on individual
donations and one-time grants from a wide variety of sources, which recently
have become fewer and fewer in number.
“We now we have no group
supporting us at all,” said Derner, highlighting that the program, which has
helped to reduce educational gaps between Ethiopian-immigrants and veteran
Israelis, is in serious danger of shutting its doors if no alternative sources
of funding are found.
“We are continuing to sign girls up for next year
and we have a bigger demand than ever before, but there is a strong chance that
we might not even be operational come next year,” she lamented.
explained that all the places they have turned to for help have been either
unwilling or unable to come up with any part of the NIS 250,000 needed to pay
teachers’ salaries and keep the course going even until the end of this academic
year. The core of the problem is that most funding bodies can only provide
assistance to students under the age of 18, she said.
A spokeswoman for
the Education Ministry said that while the program is valuable because
participants are over the age of 18, it cannot provide funding via its
educational welfare department, Shahar.
“We are trying to find
alternative ways to help them,” the spokeswoman said.
employees at Second Chance, which has more than 90 young women enrolled in its
three centers in Ashkelon, Jerusalem and Ramat Gan, this is the only program
that allows participants the chance to combine their national service with a
study element, enabling them to end the service with good enough grades to seek
a place in higher education.
“It really helps them and really gives them
another chance in their lives,” Derner said.
Yafit Eneiyesh Tarekegn, 21,
took the course two years ago to improve her matriculation score in English. She
told the Post
on Thursday that the program not only improved her overall grades
but also helped gain her admission to Efrata College in Jerusalem.
meant that I did not have to sit the college preparatory exam and it really
helped me overall,” said Tarekegn, who made aliya from Ethiopia just over 10
She said the program was not just about learning but that it
also gave her confidence a boost, with teachers encouraging students to improve
their lives by studying and not just heading out to work.
Over the past
few months, publicized accounts of institutionalized discrimination and racism
in society against Ethiopian Israelis have highlighted the difficulties faced by
the immigrant community.
A disproportionately high number of Ethiopian
immigrants receive social services support, a recent report by the Ministry of
Welfare and Social Services showed. From within the 115,000-strong community,
61.4 percent had open files with social services and even among those in the
second generation the chance of them having met with a social worker was twice
as high as in the population as a whole.
On Wednesday night, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with representatives of Ethiopian Israelis to
discuss ways to improve the community’s integration into
Netanyahu expressed regret and outrage at the recent spate of
racist incidents and said he was committed to helping to improve the
He urged community representatives to become involved in
tackling the problem and promised to continue meeting with them on a regular