Forty percent of Arab students in east Jerusalem do not finish high school,
compared with a 3% dropout rate among Jewish and haredi (ultra-Orthodox) schools
in the rest of the city, Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat said on Tuesday. He
made the comments during a day-long series of Knesset meetings about the capital
in honor of Jerusalem Day.
Barkat told The Jerusalem Post that this is
the first study which has examined dropout rates in east Jerusalem, and that it
showed an alarming trend. “They get almost to the end of 12th grade, and
then we see the biggest dropout rate,” said Barkat.
He attributed the
high dropout rate at the end of the school year to girls getting married at age
17 or 18 and boys getting jobs.
“These are cultural and practical
problems,” said Barkat, who holds the education portfolio in addition to serving
as mayor. “We need to raise awareness, we need to investigate, we need to meet
with the parents’ committee and get girls to finish high school before they get
Barkat also pointed out that many east Jerusalem students see
no need to finish school because their matriculation exams, created by the
Palestinian Authority and designed for Palestinian higher education, are not
honored by Israeli universities. “[These tests] doesn’t open any doors for
them,” the mayor said.
Deputy mayor Yosef “Pepe” Alalu, an outspoken
critic of Barkat’s policies in east Jerusalem, said creating vocational high
schools could help retain more students until the end of their studies and
ensure they have decently paying jobs when they leave.
causes unemployment, poverty – all these issues start from this point,” said
Alalu, pointing out that east Jerusalem lacks more than 1,000
This year, the city built 42 classrooms in the area, which
Alalu called “too little, too late.” He noted that the new classrooms have
barely kept up with natural growth – let alone addressed existing
At Tuesday’s hearing, municipality director-general Yossi Heiman
presented statistics about Jerusalem’s school district, which is the largest in
the country. There are 541 schools in Jerusalem, compared with 147
schools in Tel Aviv and 117 in Haifa. Jerusalem has 240,000 students, or
approximately 11% of all of Israel’s students. The schools are divided into
three tracks: haredi schools make up 43% of the schools, national-religious and
secular schools account for 23%, and Arab schools represent 29%.
expressed his support for elongating the school day by two hours, which would
enable parents to work without worrying about childcare. City council member
Rachel Azaria argued in support of a longer day, saying that a family of three
must pay NIS 5,000 in childcare – effectively taxing people for the right to
work. She added that haredi schools should not get an equal amount of funding
for after-school programs because many of the parents do not work.
comments angered haredi MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism), who claimed
that the city is discriminating against haredi education.
Jerusalem, don’t take the money when we’re the ones who are going to work,”
Azaria responded to Eichler.