Supreme Court: Find school for Ethiopian pupils in PT now

Education Ministry, Petah Tikva Municipality asked to find immediate solution for remaining handful of Ethiopian children whose school was closed.

September 22, 2011 07:40
3 minute read.
Tzipi Livni with Ethiopian Israeli protesters

Livni loves Ethiopian children_311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday called on the Education Ministry and the Petah Tikva Municipality to find an immediate solution for the remaining handful of Ethiopian children whose school was closed and have yet to be placed in alternative frameworks.

The call came after Ethiopian legal rights organization Tebeka filed a high court petition demanding the children be immediately integrated into the city’s education system.

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“This issue should have been dealt with far in advance of the school year and not just a few days before the pupils returned,” commented Supreme Court Justice Dorit Beinisch, who was one of three judges who heard the petition.

She added: “It is not unusual for new immigrants, who are in the process of acclimatizing to their new surroundings, to choose to live together... We know this happens but it should not affect the school districts that the children are assigned to.”

The petition directly addresses Petah Tikva’s Nir Etzion School, which had a 90 percent Ethiopian Israeli student body and was meant to have been completely closed in order to improve the integration of Ethiopian immigrants in the city.

However, just days before the start of the school year the ministry and local authority decided instead to only partially close the school.

When, on September 1, parents with children remaining in school refused to send them and staged a mass protest in the city, the authorities immediately agreed to close it and send the students elsewhere.

While some were assigned places in other schools, children from the higher grades were told there was no room locally and they would have to study in frameworks outside the city. The parents refused and since then the children have stayed home.

A lawyer representing the Education Ministry and the Petah Tikva Municipality told the judges that a solution had now been found for all the fifth-grade children in schools in the city.

However, children from the sixth grade have yet to be placed.

One suggestion, he said was that they attend the local middle school but because they are technically too young for that framework, the children will learn in a separate class.

Beinisch responded that while a segregated class was not much better than a segregated school, the education ministry has the expertise to determine the best solution and she gave them until October 3 to provide a progress report.

“The solution must be practical.

Every minute is important and everyday that goes by is important,” she urged, adding “every effort has to be made to get these children back in school.”

Jasmin Keshet, Tebeka’s legal adviser, told The Jerusalem Post after the hearing that she welcomed the judges’ decision, including keeping the petition open in the Supreme Court until the matter is adequately resolved.

However, she pointed out that the problem is not limited to this particular school in Petah Tikva and that the organization planned to use the petition to raise the issue in a general sense.

“It needs to be solved for everyone. Every year on September 1 we see this happening to Ethiopian students,” said Keshet, adding that there needs to be a change in Education Ministry policies regarding school catchment areas, especially when it comes to neighborhoods with a high percentage of Ethiopian families.

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