More than 3,000 students from the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiya went on
strike on Wednesday to protest a severe deficit of classrooms in the
impoverished Arab neighborhood.
According to Darwaish Darwish, the
community mukhtar, or elected leader, the neighborhood is missing 20 classrooms
for an estimated 800 students.
Darwish said the community also
desperately needs a girls’ high school and that 200 high school girls have
nowhere to learn.
“Every year we have the same problem,” Darwish said on
Wednesday, ahead of a meeting with municipality officials to try to stop the
strike. “Last year the mayor came and said he would build. But we’ve been
sending letters telling them we have a serious problem and that they need to
build classrooms, and they don’t answer,” he said.
At the heart of the
issue was approximately 100 students who needed to be placed in classrooms
immediately, according to Isawiya Parents Committee member Muhammad Abu Hummus.
He accused the municipality of “denying our children the fundamental right to
A municipality spokeswoman said that at an emergency meeting
on Wednesday afternoon with Darwish and the parents committee, the municipality
found temporary places for the students at two municipality schools in Isawiya
as well as municipal schools in neighboring Shuafat and Beit Hanina.
spokeswoman added that the municipality would take charge of transporting the
students to their new schools.
Abu Hummus said the students would return
to school on Thursday, but if the 100 students were not immediately placed in
new schools they will resume the strike on Sunday. The parents committee member
also said the community is fighting with the municipality to get a local girls’
high school, because many parents are reticent to allow their daughters to
travel to other neighborhoods for schooling and therefore keep them at
Abu Hummus also slammed the city for ignoring their schools for
such a long time. “Forty years ago I learned in a bomb shelter,” he said. “Now
they also want to send my children to the same bomb shelter? It’s a shame!”
During the dedication of a special needs kindergarten in Beit Hanina on Monday,
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat stressed that he is investing
NIS 400 million to
build 400 classrooms in east Jerusalem over the coming years.
those classrooms are designated for Isawiya.
In a scathing report
released this week, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Ir Amim said
that despite municipal efforts, the gaps between east Jerusalem and west
Jerusalem schools are staggering.
According to their estimates, east
Jerusalem is missing an estimated 1,100 classrooms.
schools also have one of the highest dropout rates in the country, at 40 percent
of 12th-graders; have just one guidance counselor per 2,500 students; and have
resources to provide free nursery school for only 5 percent of students between
the ages of three and six, despite Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s promise
of free schooling starting two years before kindergarten.
The report also
highlighted the fact that 20,000 young people in east Jerusalem between the ages
of six and 18 are not enrolled in any municipal school framework.