olmert worried 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Schools throughout the North and in communities near the Gaza Strip will get special help during the coming school year, according to a well-funded plan approved unanimously in a special meeting of the cabinet for the rehabilitation of the North on Tuesday.
"This brings the good tidings of change for the educational system in the North," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said of the decision.
Presented by Education Minister Yuli Tamir, the "Turning Our Hearts to the North" plan will devote some NIS 700 million to rehabilitating 1,078 schools and their educational staff in the North and in communities bordering the Gaza Strip. It marks the latest in a series of initiatives on the part of the government and non-governmental organizations to rehabilitate the devastated economy and social life of more 100 municipalities and local councils affected by the rockets of Hizbullah or Palestinian terror groups.
The funds, half of which will come from the state budget and half from external sources, will go toward financing several significant upgrades in the educational system. The non-state funds, some NIS 340m., will come from the Jewish Agency, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Mifal Hapayis, United Jewish Communities, the Sacta-Rashi Foundation, the Joint Distribution Committee and other donors.
NIS 40m. will go toward splitting up first- and second-grade classes, allowing some 40,000 children to learn in smaller classes. Another NIS 40m. will go toward extra study hours for some 18,000 high school students to prepare them for matriculation exams. The Education Ministry will also invest some NIS 45m. in 50 of the lowest-performing schools to bring them up to the national standard.
In addition, the plan includes programs for training teachers and principals, particularly in issues related to post-war trauma among the schoolchildren, as part of a two-year, NIS 20m. project to empower the educational staffs in the affected areas. An additional NIS 30m. will go toward subsidizing parents' fees for cultural activities, trips and school supplies, and for improving school libraries.
The program will also contribute NIS 440m. toward improving the physical environment in classrooms in some 500 schools, along with "comprehensive" refurbishing of 70 school buildings. While there has been some disagreement over who will cover the cost, the cabinet also approved the construction of 350 new classrooms.
Olmert told the ministers that "education has a particularly high place in this government's priorities, evidenced both in the 2007 state budget and in the plan for the rehabilitation of the North."
The government's coordinator for the rehabilitation of northern infrastructure, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yaron, told the cabinet that of 140 families whose homes were destroyed in the war, 120 have reached compensation settlements with the Finance Ministry, and 72 families remain in state-funded accommodations until the restoration of their homes is complete. The figure is down from 88 last week.
The cabinet for the rehabilitation of the North was established and is headed by the prime minister, and allows for planning and implementing rehabilitation projects at the highest levels of government.
The general plan for the rehabilitation of the North was approved by the government in mid-September, and is expected to cost some NIS 2.8 billion in government funds and another NIS 1.2 billion from NGOs and private donors by the end of 2007.
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