Demanding the Establishment of a High School for 750 Arab Bedouin Students from Abu-Tulul - El-Shihabi and Six Surrounding Unrecognized Villages in the Naqab

HCJ 2848/05, Fatimah Abu Sabila (Ali) et. al., v. The Ministry of Education, et al.

Petition filed to Supreme Court in 3/05, demanding the opening of a high school in the region of Abu-Tulul – El-Shihabi, in which lie seven villages inhabited by approximately 12,000 Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel. The petition was filed in the name of Adalah, and on behalf of 35 Bedouin girls and six other NGOs, against the Ministry of Education (MOE), the Regional Planning Committee – Southern District, the Abu Basma Regional Council, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Israel Lands Administration. All of the villages are unrecognized by the state and therefore lack essential infrastructure and services, including a high school. Students from the villages who wish to pursue a high school education must therefore travel 12 km to attend school in the recognized, state-planned Arab Bedouin towns of Segev Shalom or Arara. Adalah presented data demonstrating that the dropout rate in the villages, which is extremely high at around 77%, is even higher among girls than boys. Adalah argued that the reason for this disparity is the fact that Arab Bedouin tradition and customs forbid female students from traveling outside of their villages without the accompaniment of a relative, from studying with students who belong to other tribes, or from being in the company of unfamiliar boys. Adalah brought further data to demonstrate that in Palestinian Bedouin towns which do have a high school female students drop out of school at a considerably lower rate - in some cases lower than the rate for boys - and girls are therefore able to fulfill their right to an education. Further Adalah emphasized that the MOE established schools for Jewish children in many other areas in the Naqab with populations smaller than those of the seven unrecognized villages, including in the neighboring settlement of Kibbutz Shuval, which has a population of just 350 people. Adalah argued that the higher dropout rate among female students in the area represents a violation of the petitioners' right to an education, and constitutes compound discrimination against them on the basis of gender and nationality: both as women in a traditional society and as members of the Palestinian minority in Israel. Adalah further argued that the state is under a grave obligation under domestic and international law to consider the social factors which lead to the higher dropout rate among Arab Bedouin girls than boys, and accordingly to eliminate the ongoing discrimination against the petitioners, and to guarantee equal educational opportunities for them by providing accessible high school education.

Result: In 1/07, the Supreme Court approved a settlement reached between the MOE and Adalah, according to which the MOE will establish a high school in Abu-Tulul – El-Shihabi, the first high school in any of the unrecognized villages in the Naqab. Under the settlement, the state is obliged to open the school from 9/09; should it not be opened for any reason, the petitioners retain the right to re-approach the Court.

H.C. 2848/05, Fatimah Abu Sabila (Ali) et. al., v. The Ministry of Education, et. al. (decision issued 23.01.07).