Adalah to Attorney General: Closure of Akbara School for Arab Children in Safad Violates the Compulsory Education Law

On 14 June 2007, Adalah sent a pre-petition to the Attorney General's (AG) Office on behalf of the parents' association of the Akbara School in Safad, demanding that the Ministry of Education's (MOE) decision to close the school in the coming academic year (2007/2008) be cancelled.

From elementary to high school, most Palestinian and Jewish students in Israel learn in separate schools. Akbara is the only Arab neighborhood in the predominately Jewish town of Safad. Approximately 420 Arab citizens of Israel live in the neighborhood, including 13 children of preschool age (3-5 years), 60 children of elementary school age (6-11 years), and 20 junior high and high school students (12-17 years). In 1994, a school was established in Akbara for pre-school and first and second grade-aged children. During the current school year, 13 children attend the preschool classes and ten children study in the first and second grade. After the second grade, the children travel to a school located in Touba Zanghariya, about 25km from Akbara. After finishing elementary school, the children study at a secondary school in the Arab village of Jesh.

In November 2006, the MOE announced its intention to close the Akbara school based on the low number of pupils. As a result of the decision, these elementary school aged children will have to travel 50 km per day to and from school. The preschool in Akbara will remain open on condition that the number of children remains above 11.

Families living in Akbara have waged many legal and public battles for a school in the neighborhood. In 1994, when the MOE established the school, it was known that the number of children attending the school would be low. Therefore, as Adalah argued in the pre-petition, the MOE's decision to close the first and second grade classes contradicts its previous decision and commitments to open a school in Akbara. It also negates the efforts of the two sides to reach an agreement over the opening of the school.

In the pre-petition, Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher contended that closing the school violates the children's rights to education and is in breach of the Compulsory Education Law � 1949, which obliges the MOE to provide educational services for children until the age of 15. The State Education Law � 1953 also stipulates the duty of children's parents to register their children at the local educational authority within the jurisdictional area of which their residence is located. Therefore, argued Attorney Zaher, the closure of the school constitutes a breach of the MOE's legal duty to provide compulsory educational services at an accessible institution.

Adalah further argued that the decision violates the right of the children of Akbara to equality and discriminates them, as several schools operate in Safad to meet the needs of Jewish children in the town.

 The Pre-petition (H)