A group of select pupils from Jerusalem-area high schools experienced government life up close on Tuesday, as they sat in on key ministry and municipality meetings and shadowed officials as part of the capital's ongoing Education Week.
Preparing to commemorate 42 years of the capital's reunification, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has dedicated the week leading up to Jerusalem Day, being marked Thursday, to education, under the slogan, "Education, Breaking Through the Walls."
In addition to various conferences and the unveiling of new education initiatives taking place throughout the capital all week, Tuesday was dubbed "Pupil's Day." High school pupils switched places with President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Labor), Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar (Likud), Minister Without Portfolio Bennie Begin (Likud), and Jerusalem Municipality officials, including Barkat.
On Tuesday morning, some of the pupils sat in on a special Knesset Education Committee meeting, which brought together the committee's regular members, the Jerusalem Municipal Education Committee, and the Jerusalem Education Administration (Manhi), among others.
"That the Knesset Education Committee is holding a discussion with the Jerusalem Municipality shows that public representatives also understand the importance of education in Jerusalem and the dramatic changes that have begun to take place here over the last two months," Barkat said during the meeting.
The mayor also emphasized the importance of the young people's participation in the event, stressing that they were the country's future leaders.
"At the height of Education Week in the capital, we've brought pupils together with figures in the municipality and the Knesset to familiarize them with the government system and how it works," he continued. "The response we've gotten from the pupils and the public figures has been extraordinary, and it seems to me that they've both learned quite a bit from one another.
"This is the future generation of Jerusalem and of the country, and their future lies in education."
During the committee meeting, students were exposed to various challenges facing the capital's education system, among them dealing with the special needs of the haredi, national-religious and Arab sectors, busing issues, and the proposal to allow parents to choose which schools they send their children to - an initiative that was floated last month by both the Education and Finance ministries.
After the pupils concluded their various jobs for the day, they reconvened in the Jerusalem City Council Chamber at City Hall, where they spoke to Barkat about their experiences.
"I felt, leading up to the program today, that it would present fantastic opportunities for us to familiarize ourselves with the public representatives, what they do and what it really means for them to serve the public on a day-to-day basis," said Carmel Tuval, the head of the Municipal Student Council, who shadowed Barkat on Tuesday.
"And the experience reached its maximum, as far as gaining knowledge and understanding of these things. I have no doubt that this will serve me well in the future."