Creating parent-teacher committees, corresponding in their own language and
punishing local authorities that do not encourage integration are just some of
the suggestions made in a recent report by the Israel Association of Ethiopian
Jews to address what it believes is becoming institutionalized segregation of
Ethiopian students in the education system.
Submitted recently to the
Ministry of Education, the report will be presented Tuesday to the Knesset’s
Education, Culture and Sport Committee.
As well as providing statistics
on the phenomenon of segregation in schools – a problem widely reported in the
media – the IAEJ also outlines some simple solutions to ease and even improve
“Every time it is reported in the media, there is a
discussion about that particular place where it is happening but we want to
point out that segregation of Ethiopian students does not only happen in Petah
Tikva or Beit Shemesh,” commented Efrat Yerday, spokeswoman of the IAEJ. She was
referring to reports last week that 62 out of 68 Ethiopian children in Beit
Shemesh are concentrated in only three kindergartens.
Yerday pointed out
that in each city where there is a large concentration of Ethiopian immigrant
families, the problem differs slightly. In some places it is due to decisions
made by the local municipality, elsewhere it is because Israeli parents do not
want their children mixed with large numbers of Ethiopian students.
main issue now, she said, is that such segregation is serving to widen the
social, economic and educational gaps between Ethiopians and others
Figures collected by the IAEJ show that more than half the
country’s 35,884 Ethiopian schoolchildren are enrolled in religious schools,
compared to only 17 percent of the general student population. The report also
noted that there are more than 10 schools in Israel where the number of
Ethiopian pupils is more than 80% of the student body and a further 40 schools
where Ethiopians constitute 40%.
“We want parents to be able to make an
informed decision about where to send their children to school and for all
schools in their area to be open to receiving them,” said Yerday, adding that
while the Education Ministry has said it will penalize municipalities that fail
to encourage integration, so far, little has been done.
responded Monday that it firmly believed in a policy of integration with regards
to Ethiopian students and highlighted that in recent months Education Minister
Gideon Sa’ar had started to close down schools with high concentrations of
Giving the example of the Nir Etzion school in Petah
Tikva, the ministry said that it was tracking the students that had been
transferred to other institutions in order to improve integration and that it
was planning to address the issue in other places too.
surrounding the closure of the Nir Etzion School caused controversy last
September when it surfaced that the ministry had made a last minute decision to
close the schools and transfer students to institutions outside of Petah Tikva
to continue their studies.
Parents were furious that their children had
been blocked from joining local area schools.
Following the school’s
closure, Ethiopian legal rights organization Tebeka filed a High Court Petition
against the Education Ministry and the Petah Tikva municipality claiming that
nearly 200 of the school’s children were not adequately integrated into the
education system in the town. During the court hearing, the ministry committed
to ensuring better integration of the students.
In contrast, in Beit
Shemesh last week it was revealed by local media that the majority of Ethiopian
children had been assigned to only three kindergartens all run by a charity
headed by the wife of Mayor Moshe Abutbul.
In his response to the lack of
integration, the mayor told Ynet “in an aquarium there are big fish and little
fish. First you have to take out the little fish in order to help them grow and
stop them from being eaten by the big fish.
That is how we are helping to
better prepare Ethiopian children for first grade.”
hearing will specifically discuss Beit Shemesh’s failure to adequately integrate