Parents boycott democratic Arab school in Haifa

Demand municipality provide suitable building and reverse dismissal of principal.

October 16, 2006 22:37
3 minute read.
Parents boycott democratic Arab school in Haifa

haifa street desterded. (photo credit: AP)


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They have refused to send their children to school ever since the academic year opened on September 3, and the parents of 60 students at Hiwar - the country's only democratic Arab school - are still no closer to resolving their dispute with the Haifa municipality and the Ministry of Education. "It is not an easy situation, the parents still have to go to work," Mia Haddad told The Jerusalem Post in an interview. "But we are persistent and dedicated to this issue. We will not give up easily. With every struggle you must pay a price." Haddad and other parents have kept their children home from the three-year-old state-run school, angry that the building the municipality is repairing to serve as its permanent home is "unsuitable" and perplexed about the Ministry of Education's decision to dismiss Hiwar's founding principal, Muna Mady. On Monday, the ministry and the municipality called on the parents - who have set up a private, ad hoc schooling system - to send their children to the school, but parents such as Haddad say they had no choice but to continue the fight. "We know that the establishment has a problem dealing with alternative schools in Israel," said Haddad. "Plus, they are used to Arabs who do not fight for their rights. We are young, well-educated people and we know our rights." She said Hiwar was a unique endeavor in the Arab sector, especially for those in Haifa, who mainly send their children to Catholic schools. The parents who started Hiwar had been searching for a more flexible environment that would encourage art, drama and creative thinking, she said. Until this year, the school was housed in a temporary location and was run by Mady, who involved parents in essential decisions and understood the philosophy of a democratic educational system. Just before the start of the school year, the parents were informed that the principal had been replaced and that the school would be moving to a second temporary location until the permanent building was ready. Haddad said the new temporary location was also unsuitable and that the parents committee, which won a lawsuit four years ago to become more involved in running the school, would also fight against the slated permanent building. "They want us to use a building that has been deserted for more than 10 years," she said, adding that earlier this year a Knesset committee headed by MK Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad) found the proposed building to be unsuitable. "There is serious air pollution, it is located on a dangerous main road and there is no parking for parents," she said. "There has not been a new Arab primary school built in Haifa for more than 50 years," Haddad said. "We need a modern building. There are some things that cannot be fixed." According to Haifa municipality spokesman Roni Grossman, NIS 5.5 million has already been allocated to restoring the permanent building, which should be ready for the 2007-2008 academic year. Grossman also said Mayor Yona Yahav was meeting all the demands and needs of the Ministry of Education and the students with regard to the buildings. "There are a few parents who are taking the law into their own hands. We call on them to return their children immediately to regular classes at the Hiwar School," he said. Kamal Atili, spokesman at ministry, echoed Grossman's message. He said, "The director of the Ministry of Education, Shmuel Abuav, has issued a closure order for the illegal school being operated by parents of Hiwar students since the start of the school year." Atili said the ministry had decided to replace Mady because she did not meet education standards. "We see the establishment of this school as extremely positive," he said. "We have many schools across the country that are run according to various criteria." Haddad said that the parents' committee was scheduled to meet with Education Minister Yuli Tamir later this week.

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