East Jerusalem 1,000 classrooms short

Six percent of all primary and high schoolaged children in east Jerusalem do not go to school, says study.

Arab students 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Arab students 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Six percent of all primary and high schoolaged children in east Jerusalem do not go to school, according to a study released on Tuesday by Ir Amim, an organization seeking to improve the conditions of the Palestinian population in Israel, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
The report attributed much of the high drop-out rate to a lack of classrooms. East Jerusalem is lacking 1,000 classrooms, but only 39 were built in 2009-2010, the report said.
The shortage has also caused many students to enroll in private schools, including those belonging to the Wakf Islamic trust, private schools run for profit, and schools run by UNWRA and churches.
Although the report did not mention this, many east Jerusalem parents have been sending their children to private schools of their own volition for decades. Nevertheless, it warned that the Palestinian population in east Jerusalem “is becoming poorer, less educated and subject to ever-rising levels of violence and delinquency. The catastrophic condition of the education system has a very significant impact on those negative processes, especially among the youth.”
The report attributed the decline to government policies and internal developments within the Palestinian community.
In 2001, in response to petitions protesting the lack of classrooms in east Jerusalem, the heads of the Education Ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality promised to build 644 classrooms by 2011. So far, only 257 have been built, and 81 more are in the offing, for a total of 338.
In addition to the 644 classrooms, another 365 are being planned. By the time they are finished, however, “there will still be a shortage of another 1,000 classrooms because the expected construction will address only the rate of the population’s natural growth,” the report warned.
It also said that the vast majority of children studying in east Jerusalem schools “suffer from poor conditions and defects; dilapidated and unsafe buildings, crowded classrooms, a low academic level... and low achievement in matriculation exams.”
In response to the report, the municipal spokesman’s office wrote that the city had already built 200 new classrooms and was “advancing” the construction of 248 more.
It also pointed out that the city was paying NIS 13.6 million to rent classrooms in east Jerusalem, compared with NIS 1.6m. in the western part of the capital; NIS 5.4m.
for transportation in east Jerusalem, compared with NIS 1.4 in west Jerusalem; and NIS 2m. for printing schoolbooks for east Jerusalem students, a service it does not provide in the western part of the city.
The municipality said that 170 classrooms, 16 kindergartens, a community center and a gymnasium were all in advanced planning stages, but added that it was difficult to plan new schools in east Jerusalem because no land was available.
The Ministry of Education said the main problem was the shortage of land in east Jerusalem. However, it added that in 2007 and 2008, it had given the municipality NIS 29m. to buy 13 plots of land for schools.
The municipality had so far only provided land ownership documents for three of the 13 schools, the ministry said.