Citing discrimination and violations of a previous court order, Ethiopian legal rights organization Tebeka filed a High Court of Justice petition on Tuesday against the Education Ministry and the Petah Tikva municipality demanding immediate action be taken to find suitable learning frameworks for roughly 180 Ethiopian Israeli schoolchildren who have yet to be integrated into the education system in the city.
The petition is directly addressing a recent incident in which Petah Tikva’s Nir Etzion School, an institution that had a more than 90 percent Ethiopian-Israeli student body, was closed down supposedly in order to improve integration of the Ethiopian immigrants.
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Initially, the decision was made to only partially close the school but after parents of children forced to remain in the school refused to send them on September 1, the Education Ministry together with the Petah Tikva municipality promised to make alternative arrangements for all the students.
However, nearly two weeks after the school year officially began, many of the 280 students have yet to find placements, claims Tebeka (Amharic for “advocate of justice”), pointing out that the practice of unfair policies and thoughtless integration tactics for students of Ethiopian decent is prevalent in numerous other areas where there are large immigrant populations.
“This situation is scandalous.
Because of their Ethiopian origin, schoolchildren in over 16 establishments nationwide are victims of discriminatory humiliation and abuse by the education minister, the Education Ministry and in this case, the municipality of Petah Tikva,” commented lawyer Itzik Dessie, Tebeka’s executive director.
“It is time for these authorities to think about what is best for these
children and invest their time and resources into finding real
In its petition to the High Court, the organization demanded equality
and justice on behalf of 180 Ethiopian Israeli students (grades 1- 6)
from Petah Tikva who have yet to start learning this year. The petition
suggested that the failure to place the children in alternative schools
is directly linked to their Ethiopian origin.
It also claimed that despite an earlier decision by the High Court
calling upon the authorities to improve its integration of Ethiopian
Israeli children in the school system, no action was taken until a few
days before the school year began on September 1.
In its response to The Jerusalem Post, a spokeswoman for the Education
Ministry said that Tebeka’s claims were inaccurate and unjustified
because over the past two weeks attempts had been made together with the
Petah Tikva municipality to place all the students in alternative
“Those who are sitting at home today do so because they have refused to
accept the placement that was offered to them,” she said.
Dessie, however, pointed out that the reason parents are refusing to
send their children to the schools offered to them is because they were
not given a choice, even though originally they had been asked to list
“Many of the schools they want the children to attend are outside of
Petah Tikva and we feel that it should not only be Ethiopian children
that are forced to go to schools in other cities. If that is a general
policy of the Education Ministry, then it should apply to all
schoolchildren, even those who are not Ethiopian,” defended Dessie.
He said that the underlying problem is that Education Minister Gideon
Sa’ar has failed to create a comprehensive policy for improving the
integration of Ethiopian Israeli schoolchildren and that closing the
school two days before the year started was simply down to “political
“He did not think these actions through; he did not consider how closing
the school down would make the children feel,” said Dessie.
“Instead of perhaps transferring some of the Ethiopian children to
another school and transferring some [children of other backgrounds]
into the school, he just closed it down.”
Dessie continued, “This kind of thing happens in other places too, and
there is just no clear policy of how to carry out integration of
students of Ethiopian decent.”