Adalah Petitions Supreme Court Demanding that Education Ministry Appoint Counselors for Arab Bedouin Students in the Naqab Who Drop-Out of School


On 22 July 2003, Adalah submitted a petition to the Supreme Court of Israel concerning the failure of the Ministry of Education (MOE) to appoint counselors for Arab Bedouin students in the Naqab (Negev) who are at-risk of dropping-out of school. The seven Arab Bedouin towns in the Naqab - Rahat, Lagiyya, Kessife, Tel el-Sebe, Hura, 'Arora, and Segev Shalom - have the highest drop-out rates in the country and the least number of counselor positions to address problems of students at-risk of dropping out. Adalah asked the Court to instruct the MOE to allocate the needed number of counselors as determined by the Ministry's own criteria. The petition was submitted on behalf of 19 individual petitioners, parents of students aged five to seventeen; the Coalition of Parent Associations for the Improvement of the Arab Educational System in the Naqab; the High Follow-up Committee for Education; the National Association of Arab Parent Associations for the Educational System in Israel; and in Adalah's own name. The respondents are the Ministry of Education, the Rahat Municipality, and the other six local councils in the Naqab. Adalah Attorney Gadeer Nicola submitted the petition.

The petition presented extensive data on the high drop-out rates among Arab Bedouin students in the Naqab, and the low number of counselors assigned by the MOE in the seven. For example, according to 2002 Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) data, in Rahat, the largest of the seven towns, ninth-grade students dropped out at a rate of 23.6%, as compared with an overall drop-out rate of 6.2% among Jewish ninth-grade students in the country. Using criteria based on the number of students and socio-economic factors, the MOE determined that Rahat should have about 15 counselor positions; in fact, Rahat has only one counselor. According to MOE standards, the seven towns in total should have almost 46 counselor positions, whereas they only have five or 11% of the required number of positions. Throughout the country, the MOE has determined that state-run Arab schools should have 432 counselor positions, but only 60 positions have been appointed. In his annual reports over last few years, the State Comptroller has repeatedly criticized the MOE for not allocating enough counselor positions for both Arab and Jewish state-run schools. In this regard, in his 2002 report, the State Comptroller also emphasized that, "the gap in the Arab sector is bigger because according to CBS data, the rate of dropping out at the high school level in the Arab sector is higher than the one in the Jewish sector."

In the petition, Adalah argued that the MOE's failure to appoint a sufficient number of counselors violates the Compulsory Education Law (1949), which guarantees free, compulsory education for all citizens of Israel from ages 3-16 years and the Rights of Students Law (2000), which reiterates this right. The MOE's failure to uphold its obligations under the law contributes to the high drop-out rate, and thus to the wider social and economic problems of the Arab Bedouin towns in the Naqab, as documented by all official sources.

Adalah further argued that the MOE is violating students' rights to education, a part of the right to dignity, which is protected by Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty (1992). By not taking steps required by law to ensure the right of students to education, the Ministry fails to provide the minimum conditions necessary to allow citizens to develop a strong sense of self-worth. The state's failure also violates international human rights covenants of which Israel is a party, e.g. Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. As the MOE has appointed the required number of counselors in some Jewish schools in the country, its gross failure to do so for Arab Bedouin students in the Naqab constitutes discrimination. Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990) and Article 1 of the Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960) strictly prohibit discrimination on the basis of race or nationality in education. Israel has ratified both treaties.