More than 1,100 nonexistent classrooms; a dropout rate that reaches 40 percent at 12th grade; lack of funding for educational advisers and psychologists; parents, not the municipality, being asked to donate money to establish a school library; and an Education Ministry that shirks its responsibilities. These are just a few characteristics of the education system in East Jerusalem, where 80,000 pupils study – or rather, are supposed to study. These characteristics are the result of perennial and intentional funding starvation.
The most severe problem with East Jerusalem’s education system – as highlighted by a joint report published last week by Ir Amim and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel – is a shortage of classrooms. Some 18 months ago, the High Court of Justice ruled that “the damage to equality in education in East Jerusalem … affects a significant part of a whole segment of the population, which cannot realize a basic right guaranteed by law.” The actions to amend the situation, the judges added, can only guarantee a partial solution.
The editorial is based on this report, “Failed Grade – East Jerusalem’s Failing Educational System”, co-written by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Ir Amim, which reveals some startling results.
The biggest problem is that although Israeli politicians love to speak of Jerusalem as the united, undivided capital of Israel, while perhaps politically that may be true in fact it is economically and demographically split down the middle — a Jewish west, and an Arab east. Resources are divided unfairly, education is sub-par on one side, and the same goes for sanitation services and healthcare, etc (e.g. “even though the residents of East Jerusalem constitute 33% of the city’s population, the municipal budget invested in that part of the city is only 8-11%”.
Instead of harking on and using unhelpful rhetoric the much smarter answer is to divide the city into Jewish and Arab sections, a la the Geneva Accords and Camp David proposals, so neither side is tempted to deprive the other of resources. Doing so will improve the living standards for all Jerusalemites immeasurably.