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Help Palestinian Students in Israel #MakeTheGrade

by Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
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Help Palestinian Students in Israel #MakeTheGrade
Help Palestinian Students in Israel #MakeTheGrade
Help Palestinian Students in Israel #MakeTheGrade
Help Palestinian Students in Israel #MakeTheGrade
Help Palestinian Students in Israel #MakeTheGrade
Help Palestinian Students in Israel #MakeTheGrade
Help Palestinian Students in Israel #MakeTheGrade
Children going on the bus to preschool
Children going on the bus to preschool

Dear Friends,

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. 

In solidarity,

Children walking to school in the Naqab desert
Children walking to school in the Naqab desert
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On the way to school
On the way to school

Dear Friends,

Many greetings to you from Adalah. 

This update follows-up our previous report from December 2017 concerning the transport for 3- and 4-year-old Arab Bedouin children from the unrecognized villages in the Naqab (Negev) to preschools, as promised by the Education Ministry. 

Having twice violated a court decision to provide the school buses, Adalah filed a motion for contempt of court on 28 February 2018 in the Be’er Sheva District Court on behalf of parents from three unrecognized Bedouin villages of Al Sira, Al-Jaraf and Umm Namila against the Israeli Education Ministry and Al-Qasoum Regional Council.

Adalah wrote in the motion that the authorities are in contempt of court due to their failure to abide by two court decisions:

“Failure to abide by the court decisions amounts to a lack of good faith on the part of the Education Ministry and Al-Qasoum Regional Council ... The petitioners anticipated – and with reason – that the authorities would abide by their commitments.”

The authorities’ violation of the court decisions constitute 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.”

The Israeli Compulsory Education Law provides that the state must provide education for children starting at age 3, however, there are no preschools in these villages and there is no public transport to neighboring villages with schools. 

At a hearing held in March 2018, the Be’er Sheva District Court ordered that buses must be provided for the children in the three villages within 5 days. The court also ruled that the state had 30 days to provide transport in the other Bedouin villages, to around 5000 preschoolers. The parties need to update the court on 10 April 2018 regarding compliance.

Adalah hopes that with the filing of the motion for contempt of court and the court’s subsequent rulings that the Education Ministry will begin to implement its promises and abide by the law.

Adalah team and parents of preschoolers in court
Adalah team and parents of preschoolers in court
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Preschoolers getting on the bus
Preschoolers getting on the bus

Despite promises, still no buses for Bedouin preschoolers 

 

Dear Friends,

Season’s Greetings and health and happiness to all in the New Year!

During this holiday season, Adalah is continuing to work on behalf of Arab Bedouin families living in the Naqab (Negev) desert in the south of Israel to demand access to education for their children.

On the day after Christmas, 26 December 2017, a Beer Sheva Court is set to hold a hearing on an urgent demand of parents’ and Adalah: the court must enforce the Education Ministry’s commitment to provide school transport for 3 and 4 year-old Arab Bedouin children. The villages in which these children live do not have preschools (as well as many other basic services and facilities) and they must travel - sometimes for long or difficult journeys - out of their villages in order to reach schools. 

Following Adalah’s petition to the court in May 2016, the Education Ministry promised in January 2017 to provide transport for preschool children living in Al-Sira and Al-Jaraf. As a result of this commitment, Adalah’s petition was withdrawn.

The Education Ministry did provide transport from March-June 2017, but ceased to operate school buses when the new school year began in September. Despite repeated queries from Adalah and parents in these communities, the Israeli authorities currently do not provide transportation.

Last week, Adalah petitioned the court again, asking that it compel the Ministry and a nearby Regional Council to abide by their commitment. State attorneys announced before the court in 2016 that the Education Ministry would allocate 50 million shekels (approximately US$14.2 million) to transport 3- and 4-year-old Bedouin school children to school. Around 5000 Arab Bedouin children require transport and/or appropriate preschool frameworks in their villages.  

"When the state commits before the court, it is expected that it will abide by its commitment," Adalah wrote in the new petition. "The failure to abide by commitments leads to continued violations of the [Compulsory Education Law, which obligates the state] to provide free education for children aged three and four via preschool transport."

We hope that the court compels the state to do the right thing, to abide by the law and its commitment, and to provide access to preschool education for children. 

We sincerely appreciate your help in ensuring that these children, and many more, can #MakeTheGrade.

We thank you for your continued support for Adalah's work.

Happy Holidays!

Walking to the bus in Al Sira
Walking to the bus in Al Sira
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Bedouin children walk to school in Naqab (Adalah)
Bedouin children walk to school in Naqab (Adalah)

Dear Friends,

With the start of the new school year this month, September 2017, Adalah’s focus remains on access to education, including securing the most basic safety measures for Arab Bedouin children to attend school, in the Naqab (Negev) desert in the south of Israel. We wish to take this opportunity to report on a success and a new case on which we are working.

First, the success. In July 2017, the Education Ministry announced before the Be'er Sheva District Court that the state intends to fund the construction of safe school bus stops for children living in six Bedouin villages in the Naqab, This commitment was made in response to a petition filed by Adalah in January 2017 on behalf of parents against the Education Ministry and two local Regional Councils demanding these bus stops.

As Adalah argued in its petition, "Hundreds of school children currently gather at random locations close to main roads with no signs, sidewalks or shelters. The lack of bus stops poses a serious safety hazard that endangers the lives and physical wellbeing of these children … These conditions do not exist in schools in [Israeli] Jewish communities in the Naqab, where authorities take care to establish proper bus stops and to eliminate safety hazards. The failure to establish proper school bus stops [for the Bedouin community] creates a situation of blatant inequality in the enforcement of the law."

The ministry further promised before the court that the construction of the bus stops would extend to related safety infrastructure, as Adalah demanded, including protective fences, sidewalks and pedestrian crossings, etc., to resolve numerous hazards that the children currently face on their way to and from school. Further hearings on the case will take place in this fall to monitor the implementation of the state's commitments.

Second, the new case. You might be very surprised to learn that numerous schools in Bedouin villages in the Naqab are not connected to the national electricity grid. In previous cases brought by Adalah, the Supreme Court found that the state’s failure to connect the schools was totally unacceptable and cannot be allowed to continue.

Adalah recently learned that 3,000 kids in the unrecognized Arab Bedouin village of Wadi al-Na'am study in schools powered solely by diesel generators. In September, Adalah sent a letter on behalf of the Wadi el-Na'am parents committee and the local village council, to senior Israeli officials and the Israel Electric Corporation demanding that they connect the schools in the village to the national grid. 

Adalah wrote in the letter that the state's failure raises grave educational and safety concerns:

"The diesel deliveries take place during the school day when students and staff are all onsite, which undoubtedly poses a danger to their health and safety. Access to the generators is not entirely blocked off and children are able to walk over to the generators during recesses in the schoolyards, putting them in life-threatening danger. The generators also produce noise, which disturbs classes. In many cases during power outages caused by generator failures, principals are forced to cancel school entirely – particularly during periods of heavy heat and cold winter temperatures. During these conditions, it is impossible to hold classes and insufferable for students and educational staff alike."

The Wadi el-Na'am local council stated:

"Our children have the right to study in reasonable conditions, like any other child in the State of Israel. It is shameful that in 2017 we have to ask to get a school connected to electricity. The current situation is unsafe and likely to cause accidents. Electrical power lines already run through the village but only serve the chemical plants located nearby. We demand that the Education Ministry take immediate action to connect schools in the village to the electricity grid."  Power lines from the electricity generating station pass over homes, schools, and businesses in Wadi el-Na’am but connect only to nearby chemical plants and not to the schools.

Your generous support makes it possible for Adalah to continue to fight for the basic right of access to education. We sincerely appreciate you help in ensure that these children, and many more, can #MakeTheGrade.

Thank you for your continued support for our work.

Stand with Adalah, Stand for Justice!

Wadi el-Na'am school powered by generator (Adalah)
Wadi el-Na'am school powered by generator (Adalah)
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Students outside Municipal School #12 in Jaffa
Students outside Municipal School #12 in Jaffa

Dear Friends,

Adalah is representing a parents' committee and student council representatives in an important case, which aims to ensure that hundreds of Palestinian Arab middle and high school students can #MakeTheGrade in the mixed city of Jaffa in central Israel.

Municipal School #12 is the largest Arab public school in Jaffa. While the facility is only authorized to accommodate 600 students, the school has dramatically lowered its dropout rate, and today 850 students are enrolled.

As a result of this positive rise in student enrolment, the school faces a severe problem of overcrowding. To temporarily alleviate the problem, the school administration moved to convert bomb shelters, a library, science labs, and a gym into makeshift classrooms.

Since 1998, the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality promised to provide a new building to supplement new classrooms at the school. These promises were backed up by official meetings, written documentation, and blueprints and plans drawn up by the municipality itself. Even during the construction of the new facility, a sign was placed specifying that the new building was slated for the school.

However, in early January 2017, Tel Aviv municipal representatives unexpectedly told surprised parents that – in violation of all prior agreements and commitments – the new building would not be handed over to Municipal School #12, but would instead be used as a new sciences school.

The school’s parents were baffled as to why the city demanded that the new sciences school be built at the expense of the students of Municipal School #12, who have been waiting years for their new building to be completed.

“Given the availability of empty structures in the city that could be used for the sciences school, the city’s insistence is totally incomprehensible,” said Mrs. Jihan Haddad, the Chairwoman of the parents’ committee. “I wonder what the Tel Aviv mayor would do if his grandchildren had to go to school in the conditions our children are now facing.”

Thus in April 2017, Adalah filed a petition to the Tel Aviv District Court, on behalf of the school’s parents’ committee and student council representatives, demanding that the municipality and the Israeli Education Ministry fulfill its commitment to expand the school.

Attorney Sawsan Zaher, Director of Adalah’s Economic and Social Rights Unit, wrote in the petition that: “The disregard for the serious distress the school is now facing as a result of overcrowding impinges upon the learning environment and harms the quality of education.”

The District Court held a hearing on the case on 6 June 2017, after the municipality refused to change its course of action and re-commit to the promise it made to Municipal School #12. The case is pending.

Your support makes it possible for Adalah to defend the education rights of Palestinian Arab students in Israel like those in Jaffa. Help us ensure that these children, and many more, can #MakeTheGrade.

Replacing signs, replacing owners
Replacing signs, replacing owners
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Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel

Location: Haifa - Israel
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Twitter: @AdalahEnglish
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