Ethiopian group files petition over school-less children

Legal rights organization Tebeka files High Court of Justice petition against Education Ministry, Petah Tikva municipality.

By
September 14, 2011 04:05
3 minute read.
Tzipi Livni with Ethiopian Israeli protesters

Livni loves Ethiopian children_311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Citing discrimination and violations of a previous court order, Ethiopian legal rights organization Tebeka filed a High Court of Justice petition on Tuesday against the Education Ministry and the Petah Tikva municipality demanding immediate action be taken to find suitable learning frameworks for roughly 180 Ethiopian Israeli schoolchildren who have yet to be integrated into the education system in the city.

The petition is directly addressing a recent incident in which Petah Tikva’s Nir Etzion School, an institution that had a more than 90 percent Ethiopian-Israeli student body, was closed down supposedly in order to improve integration of the Ethiopian immigrants.

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Initially, the decision was made to only partially close the school but after parents of children forced to remain in the school refused to send them on September 1, the Education Ministry together with the Petah Tikva municipality promised to make alternative arrangements for all the students.

However, nearly two weeks after the school year officially began, many of the 280 students have yet to find placements, claims Tebeka (Amharic for “advocate of justice”), pointing out that the practice of unfair policies and thoughtless integration tactics for students of Ethiopian decent is prevalent in numerous other areas where there are large immigrant populations.

“This situation is scandalous.

Because of their Ethiopian origin, schoolchildren in over 16 establishments nationwide are victims of discriminatory humiliation and abuse by the education minister, the Education Ministry and in this case, the municipality of Petah Tikva,” commented lawyer Itzik Dessie, Tebeka’s executive director.

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“It is time for these authorities to think about what is best for these children and invest their time and resources into finding real solutions.”

In its petition to the High Court, the organization demanded equality and justice on behalf of 180 Ethiopian Israeli students (grades 1- 6) from Petah Tikva who have yet to start learning this year. The petition suggested that the failure to place the children in alternative schools is directly linked to their Ethiopian origin.

It also claimed that despite an earlier decision by the High Court calling upon the authorities to improve its integration of Ethiopian Israeli children in the school system, no action was taken until a few days before the school year began on September 1.

In its response to The Jerusalem Post, a spokeswoman for the Education Ministry said that Tebeka’s claims were inaccurate and unjustified because over the past two weeks attempts had been made together with the Petah Tikva municipality to place all the students in alternative schools.

“Those who are sitting at home today do so because they have refused to accept the placement that was offered to them,” she said.

Dessie, however, pointed out that the reason parents are refusing to send their children to the schools offered to them is because they were not given a choice, even though originally they had been asked to list their preferences.

“Many of the schools they want the children to attend are outside of Petah Tikva and we feel that it should not only be Ethiopian children that are forced to go to schools in other cities. If that is a general policy of the Education Ministry, then it should apply to all schoolchildren, even those who are not Ethiopian,” defended Dessie.

He said that the underlying problem is that Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar has failed to create a comprehensive policy for improving the integration of Ethiopian Israeli schoolchildren and that closing the school two days before the year started was simply down to “political considerations.”

“He did not think these actions through; he did not consider how closing the school down would make the children feel,” said Dessie.

“Instead of perhaps transferring some of the Ethiopian children to another school and transferring some [children of other backgrounds] into the school, he just closed it down.”

Dessie continued, “This kind of thing happens in other places too, and there is just no clear policy of how to carry out integration of students of Ethiopian decent.”

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