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Education gap ‘widening’
A recent report by an Israeli non-governmental organisation says 5,000 Palestinian children in East Jerusalem will not be able to attend classes this year because there are not enough classrooms.
The Arab neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem lack more than 1,000 classrooms needed to accommodate schoolchildren, according to the report issued by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Ir Amim, an Israeli nonprofit that promotes coexistence in the city.
The widening gap in education between the Arab East and the predominantly Jewish West Jerusalem is all too obvious.
Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros visited Shaafat Elementary, a school, and found that it was a converted animal barn.
The ACRI report estimates that more than 5,000 would-be students in East Jerusalem are not enrolled in any school.
According to the report, there is a huge discrepancy in the number of schools and quality of education in the Arab East part of Jerusalem, compared to the predominantly Jewish West of the City.
In fact, while the number of public schools in the West is going up. 30,000 Palestinian students in East Jerusalem this year have been forced to attend private schools due to a shortage of at least 1,000 classrooms.
Over 5,000 will not be going to school at all this year.
“There has been a huge increase in the population in East Jerusalem, and that has not been followed by a huge increase in classroom construction,” Sarah Kreimer, associate director of Ir Amim, said.
The Jerusalem municipality rejected the report, saying the numbers were “distorted.”
Of the nearly 90,000 children between 5 and 18 years old living in East Jerusalem, fewer than half were enrolled in municipal public schools last year, the report said.
Students who do not make it into public school because of the classroom shortage are forced to consider private schools, often at a steep cost, Kreimer said. Some families get priced out, and many students end up at home.
The report also said many existing classrooms were “small, crowded, unventilated and lacking support classes or playgrounds.”
Nisreen Elyan, a lawyer for ACRI, told Al Jazeera that the shortage of schools and poor facilities will likely have a long-term social effect on Palestinian children.
“If they’re not in school, it means they are usually on the streets and they can get into gangs which is dangerous,” she said.
“Also, it has been shown that once these children are out of the education system, it is difficult for them to come back in.”
Israeli officials admit there is a huge gap between education systems in the East and West of Jerusalem. They put it down to bureaucratic reasons and the fact that within the municipality few are lobbying on behalf of Palestinian residents.