Eastern Jerusalem schools in crisis

According to the 2009 Comptroller's Report, the Education Ministry and Jerusalem Municipality have not made good on on their obligation to build adequate school facilities for pupils in east Jerusalem, and the current lack of facilities combined with the growing number of children may soon spiral out of control. "There is a severe shortage of classrooms in east Jerusalem, and as such, pupils are being denied their right to an education, as stipulated by Israeli law," the report states. "And it is incumbent upon the Education Ministry and Jerusalem Municipality to do all that is possible to provide enough suitable space for the pupils," it continues. The comptroller's investigation into the lack of viable classrooms in east Jerusalem revealed that not only was there a lack of some 1,000 classrooms for pupils in the area, but that existing classrooms were often small, packed with students and equipped with less-than sanitary bathrooms and kitchen facilities. There were some 40,200 pupils in east Jerusalem during the 2007-08 school year, according to the report, and in that same year, another 16,600 pupils were enrolled in "Recognized but unregistered" institutions - which are usually religious schools run by the Wakf, or Islamic Authority. In addition to those numbers, the report states that 20,000 pupils were enrolled in private schools. However, as the report goes on to say, the dire financial situation of most east Jerusalem residents makes Wakf schools and especially private schools unattainable. This inevitably means that some pupils will be left out of any educational framework whatsoever. The report goes on to fault the municipality's response to the crisis as "far too slow," and states that neglect of the area has seen the number of pupils outside the recognized education system grow so large that "the municipality no longer knows their number or if they are learning in an educational institution at all." As far as registered schools in east Jerusalem are concerned, the report puts the onus on the Education Ministry, saying that while the ministry is supposed to work in coordination with the municipality, it was "not a partner in helping the municipality find solutions to the problem." The report suggests that the municipality take the same approach towards east Jerusalem schools as it does in west Jerusalem, and that "if the municipality were to create a team to follow up on the progress of building schools and classrooms in east Jerusalem, that would be a step in the right direction." "The mayor and director-general of the municipality have comprehensive work to do, to find the solutions to this problem," the report continues. "As such, it is upon them to find the proper ways to do this, and if need be, approach the government for assistance." The report addresses the Education Ministry in a similar manner, stating that if the ministry does not have the proper tools to deal with the classroom shortage in east Jerusalem, they too should ask the government for help.