Barkat, Rivlin visit special needs Arab kindergarten 370.
(photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat dedicated a new special-needs kindergarten in the
Arab neighborhood of Beit Hanina on Monday amid criticism that east Jerusalem
lacks well over 1,000 classrooms.
In a scathing report, the Association
for Civil Rights in Israel and Ir Amim said that despite municipal efforts, the
gaps between east Jerusalem and west Jerusalem schools are
East Jerusalem schools have one of the highest drop-out rates
in the country, at 40 percent of 12th graders; have just one guidance counselor
per 2,500 students; and have resources to provide free nursery school for only 5
percent of students between the ages of three to six despite Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu’s promise for free schooling starting two years before
The report also highlighted the fact that 20,000 young
people in east Jerusalem between the ages of six and 18 are not enrolled in any
municipal school framework.
According to municipal population figures
there are a quarter of a million students aged 6- 18 in the city, with 106,534
living in east Jerusalem. However, the Jerusalem Education Administration (JEA)
counts only 86,018 east Jerusalem students between ages six and 18 as being
enrolled in school.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat was unfamiliar with the
However, Lara Mubariki, deputy director of JEA in charge of
the Arab sector, said the gap could be attributed to students from east
Jerusalem who study in Palestinian schools on the other side of the security
“We don’t know about students learning in Ramallah,” she
However, ACRI and Ir Amim expressed doubt that there were 20,000
students studying in Palestinian schools and accused the municipality of
allowing thousands of young people to fall through the cracks.
ongoing shortage of classrooms appears even more severe when taking into
consideration the authorities’ confusion regarding the number of children
currently residing in east Jerusalem for whom they must provide classrooms,” the
report states. “The number of children naturally informs not only the number of
required classrooms but also the scale of the budget and resources to be
allocated to education within east Jerusalem. Attempts to acquire clear data
have shown that the responsible authorities have not conducted comprehensive
According to the report, the city lacks approximately
1,100 classrooms in east Jerusalem.
This, despite a Supreme Court
decision in February 2011 that ruled that the Jerusalem Municipality and the
Ministry of Education must enable every child from east Jerusalem to register at
an official school in their residential area or receive tuition reimbursement if
forced to register at a private or unofficial but recognized
(Such schools are partially funded by the Education Ministry but
may be for-profit.) At the dedication of the new Eshkol kindergarten in Beit
Hanina on Monday, Barkat stressed that 400 classrooms were in various stages of
approval or construction in east Jerusalem, more than during any previous
“The gaps between the center of the city and this part of
the city need to be addressed, especially the physical differences, and the gaps
need to be closed after years of neglect,” said Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin,
who also attended the dedication.
“This is a beautiful building that
needed to be completed long ago, but we’re making progress,” Barkat said moments
after he cut the ribbon with Amal Darwish. Darwish is in charge of 18 other
kindergarten classes for special-needs children aged three to six in Beit
Barkat bristled at criticism that 400 classrooms over the next
few years would not be sufficient to address existing needs in east Jerusalem,
much less the high natural growth rate.
“The rate of building [classrooms
in east Jerusalem] is without precedent,” Barkat said.
“We won’t stop at
400; the idea is to close the gaps,” he said.
After the dedication,
Rivlin told The Jerusalem Post
he believed the city needs to build 200
classrooms per year just to keep up with natural growth.
He said if the
city can build 400 classrooms per year it will be able to meet the demand for
classrooms within five years.
He admitted the plan was unlikely because
funding from the Education Ministry is uncertain and must be approved on a
Jerusalem opened the school year with a record-setting 95
sets of twins, including four sets of triplets, started first grade this year in