The Right to Education in Jerusalem

The Right to Education in Jerusalem, Jerusalem, December 7-8, 2006
The seminar is an initiative of the Academy-Community Partnership for Social Change in partnership with: Wellspring for Democratic Education, BaKehila ("in the community") and Mahapach-Taghir. Approximately 80 students participated in the seminar, all of whom are involved in educational work in different frameworks across Jerusalem, and most of whom receive Perach (national tutorial project) scholarships.
The seminar's objectives were to expose engaged students in Jerusalem to important information and questions concerning education in the city, facilitate an encounter and dialogue for mutual learning of students working with youth in the framework of different educational organizations, and create connections between different organizations in Jerusalem.
Thursday, December 7:
15:30 - Gathering and refreshments.
16:00-17:30 - Panel: Education in Jerusalem
- Chair: Dr. Daphna Golan, Director of Academy-Community Partnership for Social Change
- Mrs. Sohaila Abu Gosh, Vice Director in Charge of East Jerusalem, Manchi (Educational Administration of Jerusalem)
-  Mr. Moshe Shriki, Principal, Kedma Junior High and High School
- Mr. Abed Al-Karim La'afi, Chair, Parents Committee
17:30-18:15 - Dinner
18:15-19:00 - Mr. Reuven Aberjil, the Black Panthers in Israel as a Chronicle of Struggle
19:00-21:30 - Critical Pedagogy (work in small groups)
Friday, December 8:
8:00-12:00 - Study tour of the separation barrier in Jerusalem, from Gilo to Kalandiya, guided by Adva Rodogovsky from Ir Amim.
12:00-13:30 - Summary and discussion in small groups
Panel: The Right to Education in Jerusalem
Summary of presentations of speakers:
  1. Mrs. Sohaila Abu Gosh, Vice Director in Charge of East Jersualem, Manchi: The municipality is responsible for the area from Qufur Aqab in the north to Um Tuba in the south, including approximately 40,000 students, 124 kindergartens, and 53 schools in East Jerusalem. The population of East Jerusalem cannot be regarded as homogenous: it includes urban and rural population, refugees, residents who live in extreme poverty, as well as under conditions of particular hardship in the Jerusalem Envelope. The education system is functioning under harsh physical conditions. Throughout the years there has been a great need in construction of new classrooms, and schools are forced to rent buildings, the rooms are extremely crowded, some of which are bedrooms or living rooms of rented houses transformed into classrooms. It is not possible to absorb all new students into the system, which is why it is mandatory only to register children who are in kindergarten age or first grade, and only those that register based upon a vacant spot. In certain neighborhoods, the study day is divided into two shifts: morning shift until 12:30, and afternoon shift, during which a new group begins to study. Boys and girls study in separate classes and schools in East Jerusalem - only in Beit Zafafa, Um Tuba and Silwan the schools are co-ed.
  2. Mr. Moshe Shriki, Principal, Kedma Junior High and High School: Integrating both a lecture and discussion with the audience, Moshe Shriki spoke of social stratification in Israel, focusing on the tracking process in the education system, and the lack of academically oriented high schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods across Israel (as opposed to vocational high schools that exist in these neighborhoods and towns). Kedma is the only academically oriented school that exists in a weakened neighborhood, and has been established to enable students from Katamonim neighborhood to achieve higher education. Classes in Kedma comprise of up to 25 students, and many times are divided into smaller groups of about 12 students. The students study about and work with the surrounding community as part of the school's curriculum.
  3. Mr. Abed Al-Karim La'afi, Chair of Parents' Committee in East Jerusalem: Abed Al-Karim La'afi spoke of the neglect of Jerusalem's education system since 1967, and noted that lately Education Minister Yuli Tamir acknowledged the need for 1,300 additional classrooms in East Jerusalem. He spoke of the crowded conditions in the rented buildings that the schools are compelled to use. Schools are currently using every possible centimeter, in every angle, living room, bedroom or caravan. Mr. La'afi related to the High Court of Justice's ruling in 2001, requiring the municipality to build 245 classrooms until the end of 2005. Despite the High Court of Justice's ruling, until 2004 only 13 new classrooms were built, and in 2005 only 35 additional classrooms. Abed Al-Karim La'afi mentioned that every student has a right to 50cm, yet in reality students in East Jerusalem have 20 cm. The schools in East Jerusalem lack laboratories, libraries, yards and playgrounds. A Jewish student receives 5 times more funding than an Arab student in the north of Israel, and he or she receives 6 times more than an Arab student in East Jerusalem. There is approximately a 50% drop-out rate of students in East Jerusalem, mostly due to the lack of space in schools.
Mr. Reuven Aberjil, About the Black Panthers as a Chronicle of Struggle.
Reuven Aberjil, one of the founders of the Black Panthers movement in Israel, told the story of the struggle of the Mizrachim (Oriental Jews) in Israel. He spoke of the Jewish immigration waves since the 19th century and up to the establishment of the state of Israel, focusing on the behavior towards the Jewish immigrants from the Arab states at the beginning of the 1950's. Mr. Aberjil described the discriminatory treatment in the absorption of the immigrants from the Arab states: in the preliminary stages they were placed in transit camps, and the means of their assimilation were inferior to those that other groups received. As Mr. Aberjil noted, it is possible to point at discrimination when examining the discourse in the media during that period: the media announced the arrival of the large population group from the Arab states, while at the same time a group of the same size arrived from Europe. Mr. Aberjil related to the comparison that may be made between the Black Panthers and the Arabs in the state, that live in disadvantaged neighborhoods such as Katamon, Wadi Salib and Musrara. The description of the struggle of the Black Panthers raised questions and interest among the students.
Critical Pedagogy workshops.
At the end of the first day the students were divided into smaller groups, for critical pedagogy workshops. The objective of the work in the groups was to process the knowledge presented during the first day of the seminar, in relation to the students' educational projects in the organizations. The questions raised, among others: does the students' action maintain the current inequality in education, or does it contribute towards change? Some of the students said that the information presented about East Jerusalem is not relevant to their work, while others stated that they learned a lot from the presentations in the first part of the seminar, things that are important for their educational work.
Study tour for understanding the impact of the Separation Barrier upon the education system in Jerusalem.
The objective of the study tour was to expose the students to the reality in Jerusalem, and the influence of the wall or separation barrier upon education in the city. The tour went through neighborhoods in which certain schools did not exist until recently, such as Zur Baher, in which about 1,000 students had to study outside the neighborhood because a building or a lot for construction of a school was not found. This is in comparison to the settlement neighborhood of Har Homa, in which kindergartens and schools were built prior to the arrival of the residents. Further, the tour visited Shofat refugee camp, which is under the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem municipality, yet has been left on the Palestinian side of the Separation Barrier, due to security and demographic objections.
The tour was concluded at Brigham Young University in Mt. Scopus, where the processing of the study tour and conclusion of the seminar took place. After a short plenary session the students were divided into four groups. The group discussions related to the seminar in general, and the study tour in particular, touching upon the difficulties, the learning and conclusions.
In the evaluations filled at the end of the seminar the students expressed a desire and need to participate in an additional program in order to work together and try to examine ways for changing the harsh reality in Jerusalem.
Further, the students expressed interest in an additional seminar that will provide more tools for their work in the organizations.