JDC-Ashalim helps kids in range of Gaza rockets

Data finds 10.7% of pupils drop out of high school; AJJDC seeks to address problem of "hidden drop-outs."

Elementary school 521 (photo credit: Sherihan Abdel-Rahman)
Elementary school 521
(photo credit: Sherihan Abdel-Rahman)
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is drawing attention to youth at risk in Israel as World Children’s Day occurs on Tuesday.
According to data collected by the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute in 2011 and presented to JDC-Ashalim, the association for planning and developing services for children and youth at risk, in last month alone, one in six children in Israel is at risk: a “disturbing picture,” the association said.
Out of the 2.52 million people in Israel aged zero to 17, 35 percent live below the poverty line.
As far as school goes, 10.7% of pupils in the country drop out of high school.
The most worrying number for the JDC, however, is the 30% of pupils in Israel who are “hidden dropouts.”
Dr. Rami Suleimani, director of JDC-Ashalim, explained that “hidden dropouts” refer to children who are included in the education system and present in school but are either absent from classes and stay out in the yard, or are sitting in class but pay no attention to the lesson or disturb the teacher.
Suleimani believes this phenomenon comes from problems within the system: “There is something wrong with the current approach which only focuses on measuring academic achievements and not on measuring the other types of achievements that the pupil is capable of. There are many types of IQs to measure,” he said.
“Education and welfare systems function as two separate things,” he added.
Suleimani believes that the causes of “hidden dropouts” are rooted in problems the child may be encountering at home, which the education system is not able to deal with alone: “There needs to be an approach that coordinate the two, because a kid is not divided into education, welfare, health and so on, a kid is a kid, he’s a whole.”
Instead of “kicking out” the problematic pupils, the education system should adapt itself to help them, Suleimani said.
To this end, JDC-Ashalim is establishing extensive training programs in partnership with the Education Ministry to give schools the tools to deal with students at risk and remedies to the dropout problem.
In light of the security situation in the South, the association is also operating to help children in the region cope with anxiety and trauma through its Hibuki (“hug”) initiative.
The Hibuki program, which started during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, provides children affected by the rocket attacks with a stuffed animal that they can hug, talk to, take care of and play with. The doll is a sad dog whose arms are open to hug.
In towns such as Sderot, the initiative has been ongoing since operation Cast Lead four years ago as rockets continued to fall in the region. Hibuki was also picked up in Japan to help children cope with the tsunami in 2011.