Children going on the bus to preschool
Many greetings to you from Adalah.
This update follows up our past reports concerning the lack of access to preschools, kindergartens, and schools in general for Arab Bedouin children from unrecognized villages in the Naqab (Negev) desert region in southern Israel. Thousands of children in these communities are facing two main challenges preventing them from safely accessing school every day: the lack of school buses for preschool-aged children and the absence of safe and protected school bus stops for Bedouin children of all ages.
We are very proud to report that due to Adalah’s persistence before the Israeli courts, we have succeeded to obtain transport for preschool-aged children from three Bedouin villages to school, and a commitment by the state and the local Regional Council to build proper bus stops near 47 schools in the Naqab.
During the past year, the Israeli Education Ministry and Al-Qasoum Regional Council, the local governing authority, have twice promised the Beer Sheva District Court in legal proceedings that they would act to provide transportation for 3- and 4-year-old preschool children from unrecognized Bedouin villages. The Court approved this commitment, but the Israeli authorities violated the decision, leaving the kids with no way to get to school. The Compulsory Education Law requires free, pre-school education for all children in Israel, and thus the state is in direct violation of the law.
In response to the state's failure to provide the buses, Adalah filed a motion for contempt of court against the Education Ministry and the Regional Council in February 2018 on behalf of parents from three Bedouin villages of Al Sira, Al-Jaraf and Umm Namila.
The authorities’ violation of the court decisions constitutes a serious, ongoing violation of the most basic rights of the children and their parents:
“Due to the conduct of the respondents, the petitioners have been forced time and again to appeal to the legal system in order to obtain basic services – services which no one is disputing their right to receive, and which they have been repeatedly promised would be provided.”
At a hearing in March 2018, the court ordered that buses must be supplied to the three petitioning villages within five days, and that the state had 30 days in which to provide transport to the remaining villages’ preschool children, estimated at around 5000 children.
However, at a further hearing on 29 May 2018, the Court switched positions, refused to continue with a general remedy for all children without transport, and decided to close the case.
Adalah will consider further legal steps and continue to monitor the situation to ensure that all children in all unrecognized villages are provided with transportation to school.
Naqab Bedouin children of all ages face potentially life-threatening challenges just making their way to school every day as hundreds don’t have access to safe, standardized bus stops but are instead forced to gather on the shoulders of local desert roads and busy highways to wait for their school buses.
Following the submission of a petition and a protracted legal battle led by Adalah, Israeli authorities agreed in early May 2018 to fund the construction of school bus stops in the Neve Midbar and Al-Qasoum Regional Councils, adjacent to 47 schools – including 10 high schools, 37 elementary schools, and four planned schools that are not yet operational. This commitment exceeded Adalah’s demand before the Court, as the petition was filed on behalf of parents of children who attend schools in 6 villages, and thus marks a major achievement.
The Be'er Sheva District Court accepted the state's commitment to establish bus stations, but refrained at a hearing in June 2018 from ordering the authorities to establish a timeline for the construction, noting that 12 months from the time in which the regional council received budgets from the Education Ministry was reasonable. Adalah will continue to monitor the implementation of the state’s commitment, as the Court regrettably refused to keep the case pending, as Adalah requested.
In its ruling, Be'er Sheva District Court Judge Yael Raz-Levy noted that Adalah's petition demanding the construction of safe bus stops for Bedouin kids was important:
"The submission of this petition was important and its arguments were significant… [The petition] bore fruit." (Emphasis in original)
Thanks again for your support for Adalah.
Children walking to school in the Naqab desert