Schools discriminating against Ethiopians to be sanctioned

Five private schools will not be approved for gov't funding if they continue the practice.

ethiopian child 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
ethiopian child 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Education Ministry intends to impose financial sanctions on five Petah Tikva schools that caused an uproar last year by refusing to accept several Ethiopian students based on their ethnicity, The Jerusalem Post discovered on Wednesday. In a letter obtained by the Post and dated May 13, the ministry's director-general, Dr. Shimon Shoshani, said he approved recommendations made by a committee appointed last year to look into such discrimination, and that the five private schools investigated would not be approved for government funding if they continued to turn away Ethiopian students. There are three categories of schools that receive varying degrees of financial support from the Education Ministry: state-run institutions, which are fully funded; semi-privatized ones, which receive 75 percent of their budgets from national and local government; and completely private schools, which receive 55%. In 2008, five private religious schools in Petah Tikva, all partially funded by the government, made national headlines when parents of Ethiopian students complained that their children had been refused places. "It's completely unfair that children whose parents pay their taxes are refused places in schools that are funded, even partially, by the government," Jasmin Keshet, legal adviser for the Ethiopian Community rights organization Tebeka, told the Post on Wednesday. Keshet said that following the Petah Tikva incident last summer, Tebeka petitioned the High Court of Justice requesting that government funding to any school - private, semi-private or state-run - that refuses to admit Ethiopian students be stopped. The court called on the Education Ministry to establish a committee to look into the incident, and then-director general Shlomit Amichai appointed attorney Motti Bass (the committee then became known as the Bass Committee) to investigate the schools involved. "Its recommendations were presented last December, but the elections and changeover in government postponed their approval," said Keshet, adding that the letter she received Wednesday from ministry director-general Shoshani "was a welcome surprise." In the letter, Shoshani writes that "educational institutions unwilling to assist in the national goal [of integration and absorption] should also not qualify for government funding." The policy only extends to the five schools in Petah Tikva named in the Bass report, however, and a spokeswoman for the ministry said that additional cases would be judged individually. "While we obviously welcome these steps," said Keshet, "this is a nationwide problem. Every year there are always Ethiopian students forced to stay home from school because of such policies, it is not only a problem in Petah Tikva." She said she planned to continue to push the Education Ministry to adopt a universal policy against any school that prevents Ethiopian students from joining its ranks. "This kind of discrimination needs to end as soon as possible," she said.