More than 35,000 pupils in east Jerusalem reportedly study outside public education system

Association for Civil Rights in Israel also says that some 1,000 public school classrooms are lacking in the capital's Arab neighborhoods.

east jlem school 88 (photo credit: )
east jlem school 88
(photo credit: )
More than 35,000 east Jerusalem pupils will not be attending state-run schools when school opens on Tuesday, according to a new report released on Sunday by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), which states that some 1,000 public school classrooms are lacking in the capital's Arab neighborhoods. The report, which was jointly issued with the nonprofit organization Ir Amim, also predicts that the current lack of classrooms will balloon to 1,500 by 2011. It adds that thousands of pupils in east Jerusalem are forced to learn in classrooms that are either far too small or lack proper ventilation. Of the 35,000 pupils not enrolled in public schools, the report asserts that 30,000 have no choice but to attend private schools run by churches, the Islamic Wakf, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, among others. According to the report, many of the private schools charge hundreds of shekels in tuition, which is a heavy burden for east Jerusalem families, 67 percent of whom live under the poverty line. Additionally, the report adds, some 5,500 additional school-age children in east Jerusalem are not enrolled in any educational framework whatsoever. Ir Amim director Yehudit Oppenheimer said that not only was the situation in east Jerusalem "deplorable," the government was skirting its obligation to the country's education laws, which state that every school-age citizen must be provided public education, free of charge. "We call on the Israeli government to recognize the importance of education in east Jerusalem and to allocate a significant portion of the Education Ministry's budget to quickly and effectively begin the fundamental changes needed to rectify the situation there," Oppenheimer said. "It is unacceptable that reforms to improve the education system in other parts of the country would precede the state's legal obligation to provide public education, free of charge, for pupils in east Jerusalem. "Until they are able to fill the educational gaps that exist in east Jerusalem, the state should return the funds that families must spend to send their children to private school outside of the public framework," she added.