Background Information on East Jerusalem Education

East Jerusalem in Numbers
Number of residents: Approximately 256,820 (34% of the Jerusalem population) [December 2007 data]
Families under the poverty line: 67% (as opposed to 21% of Jerusalem’s Jewish families) [2006 data]
Children under the poverty line: 77.2% of the Arab children in the city (as opposed to 39.1% of the city’s Jewish children) [2006 data]
Shortage of school classrooms: There is a shortage of 1,500 classrooms. Only about half of the city’s 79,000 school-aged children attend public schools.
School dropout rate: Currently stands at approximately 50%.

Population Profile: Young and Poor
47% of East Jerusalem residents are children. The median age of Jerusalem’s Palestinian population in 2006, according to Central Bureau of Statistics data, was 19.3 years old.

The Palestinian population of East Jerusalem lives in dire poverty. CBS data published in 2006 indicate that 67% of Palestinian families in Jerusalem (as opposed to 21% of the city’s Jewish families) live below the poverty line. The incidence of poverty among Palestinian residents of Jerusalem is also considerably higher than the rate of 48% among the Arab population in Israel proper. The poverty statistics for children are even graver: 77.2% of Palestinian children in East Jerusalem live beneath the poverty line, as opposed to 39.1% of the city’s Jewish children. Over 91,000 children in East Jerusalem live in a perpetual state of poverty.
The Neglect of the Authorities and its Impact

As long as Israel remains in control of East Jerusalem and officially recognizes its inhabitants as residents of the State, it is responsible for their welfare and obliged to respect their human rights. Under Israeli law, in fact, these residents are entitled to the same services and rights granted to Israeli citizens. Nevertheless, since 1967 the Israeli government has not budgeted resources for strengthening and developing East Jerusalem-resources that are essential for meeting the physical needs of the area and the needs of the population at its natural growth rate. Israel’s policy for the past four decades has taken concrete form as discrimination in planning and construction, expropriation of land, and minimal investment in physical infrastructure and government and municipal services. As a result, East Jerusalem residents suffer severe distress, and their conditions are worsening.

The Civil Status of East Jerusalem Residents
Following the Six Day War and the Israeli annexation, East Jerusalem residents were given the civil status of “permanent residents” of Israel. As such, the primary right they were granted was the right to live and work in Israel without the need for special permits. Permanent residents are also entitled to social rights according to the National Insurance Law, health insurance, and the right to vote in municipal (but not national) elections. Permanent residency status, unlike citizenship, is passed on to the children of residents only under certain conditions. A permanent resident who marries someone who is neither a permanent resident nor a citizen of Israel must apply for family unification on behalf of his or her spouse. In reality, Israel treats the residents of East Jerusalem as foreigners whose status can be revoked as a matter of course. These residents are forced to repeatedly prove their permanent residency status in the city to the Ministry of the Interior and the National Insurance Institute, which conduct investigations and inquiries designed to gather evidence for annulling this status. Residency status is sometimes revoked arbitrarily, with no opportunity for appeal, and with no notification to the resident, who learns of the action only when applying for services. The Ministry of Interior office in East Jerusalem, which serves only East Jerusalem residents, is notorious for its substandard service. Its workload is overwhelming, and requests linger in files for months, even years, before being officially handled.

Education: A Critical Classroom Shortage
The most pressing of the many serious problems in education in East Jerusalem is the shortage of classrooms. The population of the area has grown to more than four times its size in 1967, but the educational system has not kept pace with the changing needs, and very few new classrooms have been built. Today, there is a shortage of 1,500 classrooms in East Jerusalem, and that number is estimated to reach 1,900 by the year 2010. Because of the enormous lack of facilities, only half of all school-aged children are enrolled in municipal schools in Jerusalem, often in crowded and unsafe conditions. To fill the gaps in the shortage of classrooms, alternative facilities, not designed for educational purposes, are being used, and “second shifts” in the existing classrooms have been organized to accommodate more students. Tens of thousands of children are not accepted into the public school system.

ACRI has been working with the East Jerusalem Association of Parents Committees and, at all times, represents children for whom no place has been found in the municipal education system. While this work has proven effective in finding solutions for the children represented, other children entitled to a free education by the state are forced to find educational solutions outside the official framework, in schools run by the Wakf [Islamic Foundation], for instance, or private schools in Jerusalem or the West Bank. These alternatives impose a great financial burden on their families. While 40,000 children attend public schools, some 32,000 are forced to pay costly tuition fees in private schools. An additional estimated 9,000 children are not enrolled in any type of educational framework. According to Jerusalem Municipality data, the post-elementary dropout rate in East Jerusalem is 50%. The corresponding dropout rate for Jerusalem’s Jewish sector is 7.4%. In the rest of the country, the highest dropout rate, as recorded by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), is 11.8%, in the community of Jisr a-Zarka.

The Jerusalem Municipality and the Ministry of Education have long been aware of the drastic shortage of classrooms, and the issue has been the subject of several petitions to the High Court of Justice. In the framework of deliberations on an HCJ petition in February 2007, the government made a commitment to build 400 classrooms in East Jerusalem over the next five years, at a cost of NIS 400 million. As planned, this construction will keep pace with the natural growth of the population; it will not satisfy the existing classroom shortage. There are delays, however, in the construction of these 400 classrooms.

Lack of Pre-school Educational Facilities
Approximately 15,000 three- and four-year-old children live in East Jerusalem; nearly 90% of them are not enrolled in any pre-school education facility. Despite the importance of early education and its proven influence on child development, the authorities charged with providing this service to East Jerusalem have made little effort to do so. There are currently only two municipal preschools in East Jerusalem, with a combined enrollment of 55 children. Another 1,900 children attend a few dozen private facilities, whose relative high annual tuition is beyond what the large majority of parents can afford.

The reason for this disturbing situation is that the amendment to the Compulsory Education Law granting government-sponsored education to three- and four-year-old children has not yet been applied to East Jerusalem. The amendment has been implemented gradually since 1999 in what is expected to be a decade-long process. By law, the first recipients of the free preschool education guaranteed by the legislation were to be children from the lowest socioeconomic communities and neighborhoods. Despite the fact that the neighborhoods of East Jerusalem are the poorest in the city according to CBS ratings, only West Jerusalem neighborhoods were selected for the establishment of free educational facilities for three- and four-year-olds-and the large majority of these areas are rated higher than those in East Jerusalem.

ACRI, working with a coalition of organizations and concerned East Jerusalem parents, is promoting implementation of the Ministry of Education order calling for the establishment of educational facilities for three- and four-year-old children in East Jerusalem. At a November 12, 2007 session, members of the Knesset Education Committee called on the Prime Minister, the Minister of Education, and the Minister of Welfare and Social Services to find solutions for the education of East Jerusalem children, and they took on a commitment to monitor the matter.

Timeline of ACRI’s Interventions – The Education Crisis in East Jerusalem
November 2006: ACRI successfully petitioned the Jerusalem Administrative Court against the Jerusalem Municipality and Israel’s Education Ministry demanding that places be found for three East Jerusalem children who had been left at home, outside of any education framework.

September 2007: ACRI again petitioned the Jerusalem Administrative Court on behalf 33 children for whom the Municipality did not find places in public schools. By November, the Municipality had found places for 26 of them, while seven children were forced to enroll in private schools and their parents forced to pay expensive tuition fees.
Click on the following to link for ACRI’s press release following the success of the petition: http://www.acri.org.il/en/?p=396

June 2008: ACRI submitted a principled petition to the High Court of Justice against the Jerusalem Municipality and the Education Ministry, with the aim of forcing the Court to issue a precedent-setting ruling holding the authorities responsible for paying tuition fees when children are forced to attend private schools in the absence of public classrooms.

July 2008: ACRI submitted a damages lawsuit to the Jerusalem Magistrates Court for the reimbursement of private school tuition on behalf of seven East Jerusalem families, whose children were forced to attend private schools in the absence of sufficient classroom space in public schools

Summer 2008: To date, ACRI has intervened before the Municipality on behalf of 12 East Jerusalem children to urge the authorities to find them places in the public school system before the start of the 2008-2009 academic year. ACRI expects to submit a third petition to the Jerusalem Administrative Court in the first weeks of September if children are left out of the public school system in East Jerusalem.

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Categories: East Jerusalem, Social and Economic Rights, The Occupied Territories, The Right to Education

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