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'Dire' situation for Palestinian students in Jerusalem

Aug. 24, 2010 9:46 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 25, 2010 5:15 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The education of Palestinian children in East Jerusalem is subject to "ongoing neglect," a joint report issued by two Israeli rights group said Tuesday.

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel and Jerusalem-based NGO Ir Amim say the education system in East Jerusalem remains short of 1,000 classrooms for Palestinian students. According to the report, only 39 classrooms were built for Palestinians over the past year despite promises made in court to build 644 by 2011.

The rights groups accused the Israeli government of bias citing the Education Law, which requires the state to provide education equally to all residents of the city. "Thousands of Palestinian pupils study in crowded classrooms, often in ill-fitting buildings. Many have to turn to private education, and thousands who cannot afford the pay stay at home," the report said.

More than 40,000 pupils in East Jerusalem attend private schools, the report found, noting the high tuition that many families scrape to afford. Some 5,300 children do not study at all, the rights groups' statistics revealed.

"The Israeli government is neither taking an interest in them nor is making efforts to return them to the education system," the report read. Only 39,523 of 82,250 Palestinian pupils, accounting for 48.05 percent of the children, attend public schools.

About half of the classrooms (647 out of a total of 1,398) were sub-standard while a quarter were in "inappropriate conditions," the report found. The state of classrooms, researchers said, forces thousands of students to study in often rented buildings lacking ventilation, libraries, laboratories, and playgrounds.

Poor conditions were cited as being the central factor behind a 50-percent dropout rate before the end of high school.

"The dire state of the education system in East Jerusalem demonstrates that the concept of 'a unified Jerusalem' is not valid," said Ir Amim executive director Yehudith Oppenheimer. "The authorities claim that Jerusalem is unified, but at the same time they continue to ignore their legal commitments to the children of East Jerusalem."

"The severe neglect of the education system in East Jerusalem is brewing a catastrophe," added Tali Nir, a lawyer with the Association of Civil Rights.

An analysis of the construction figures by Ir Amim together with the Association for Civil Rights shows that since 2001, only 257 classrooms have been built in East Jerusalem.

An Education Ministry spokesman did not return calls seeking comment.
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