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Right to Education

Uncertain Education for Children from the Jahalin Community

Written by admin  •  Thursday, 20.05.2010, 00:00
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Uncertain Education

Since September 2009, seventy children of the Bedouin community Jahalin in al-Khan al-Ahmar have been going to school close to their homes, between Jericho and Jerusalem. But it is unclear whether these children will be able to attend their necessary lessons next year. By the end of the current school year in July, the Israeli Civil Administration will decide whether the demolition will go ahead. If this threat materializes, the children will be deprived of their education.

Reem, Muna and their classmates learn to make little dolls.
Photo: Florian Vande Walle

For twelve-year-old Reem, the school of al-Khan al-Ahmar changed her life and gave her a future. “To go to school near to Jericho, I had to wake up at 6.30 in the morning. I arrived at my school between nine and ten o’clock. I returned home around 4 o’clock, three hours after my class was finished. Today it takes me five minutes to go to school. I live just across the road, in Alkanal Ahamer. Immediately after school, I’m free to play and to study more. Since I don’t have to travel all day anymore, I enjoy going to school. I have more education in science, mathematics, geography, English and Arabic.”

In April 2009, international volunteers with the support of some organizations started to build a school out of old car tyres, sand and mud. The Italian Cooperation for Development equipped the school with more facilities, allowing seventy children from five Bedouin communities between 6 and 12 years old to receive their necessary education there since September 2009. Up until then, these Bedouin children had to travel to Jericho or Aziriya. These towns are only 25 kilometres away, but the journey is associated with numerous risks. Because this territory is classified as Area C, Israel forbids school buses with Palestinian license plates from driving on some parts of their roads. The bus drivers were fined daily and eventually stopped driving because they became scared of losing their driver’s licenses. During the past two years, four children have been killed on their way to school while trying to cover the distance by hitchhiking.

Although the lives of Reem, her sister Muna and the other children brightened up considerably since the opening of the al-Khan al-Ahmar School, their futures are now again in danger. Ironically, this Jahalin community live where the Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan supposedly took place. In sharp contrast to the injured Jew who was helped by the Samaritan, the Bedouins and their children are threatened by the Jewish settlers. Decades after the Bedouins arrived in this region, and after being expelled from the Negev desert in 1948, the settlements of Ma’ale Adumim and Kfar Adumim were built by Jewish settlers, who try to frighten away the Bedouins with the support of the state of Israel.

The walls of the school buildings and bathroom are made from old tyres, sand and mud.
Photo: Florian Vande Walle

Every tent, shack, well and even the mosque used by the Bedouins is under demolition orders. From the start, the Israeli Civil Administration, which is subordinate to the Israeli Defense Ministry, forbade the community to build and it continues to consider illegal every structure built here, even those constructed years before the administration took the right to oversee the use of the land.

As this article is published, the Israeli road enterprise Maatz is excavating the hill where the village is located. As part of the Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty, Israel is enlarging the road that goes from Jerusalem to Amman, at the expense of the Bedouins. For the displacement of their mosque, the Bedouin community received only a small compensation as a pacifier – not because it was felt that they had a right to the land.

Hanan Awwad, the manager of the al-Khan al-Ahmar School: “Every citizen of Palestine has a right to receive education, and that includes these Bedouin children.”
Photo: Florian Vande Walle

As a consequence of the road enlargement, the school was also forced to demolish the bathroom. “To meet the demands of the court, we cut one metre and a half from a classroom, just to nail down to the peremptory length of 70 meters of the road”, explains the manager of the school Hanan Awwad, who is in charge of five teachers.

Next to the Bedouin village, the Israeli road enterprise Maatz has started heavy construction works.
Photo: Florian vande Walle

“For our school, the demolition order is not implemented yet. The Public Court already demanded the demolition, but the High Court refused it. Now, the settlers want to make a new road that goes through the school, just to demolish it by law. The High Court will only go along this line if the case is framed into a big master plan for the whole area that will justify the illegality of the building and that offers a solution for the Bedouins and their children as well.”

To enlarge the road from Jerusalem to Amman, the school has already been forced to replace the bathroom and to cut a metre and half off a classroom.
Photo: Florian Vande Walle

For now, the Civil Administration can’t demolish the buildings at least until the end of the school year in July and in the case of demolition, it has to be announced one month in advance. After that, the future of the children and their school is uncertain. “Although the future of the school is unpredictable, what is certain is that we will continue”, stresses the school manager. “Every citizen of Palestine has a right to receive education, and that includes these Bedouin children. It is important that they learn to write and read so they can receive a better life than their parents.”

For now, the Civil Administration can’t demolish the buildings at least until the end of the school year in July and in the case of demolition, it has to be announced one month in advance. After that, the future of the children and their school is uncertain. “Although the future of the school is unpredictable, what is certain is that we will continue”, stresses the school manager. “Every citizen of Palestine has a right to receive education, and that includes these Bedouin children. It is important that they learn to write and read so they can receive a better life than their parents.”

The Bedouin village of al-Khan al-Ahmar is situated in Area C. On the hilltop on the left is the settlement of Kfar Adumim. An excavator on the right of the school is preparing the enlargement of the road, as part of the Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty.
Photo: Florian Vande Walle
Reem also hopes she can go to the al-Khan al-Ahmar School next school year, at least if the Civil Administration doesn’t decide something else. “Jericho is too far and difficult to go to.”

To displace their mosque, the Bedouins of al-Khan al-Ahmar received small compensation as pacification.
Photo: Florian Vande Walle
This article was written for Palestine Monitor by Florian Vande Walle.

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