Arab Bedouin schools in the Naqab remain without electricity; national electricity company now blames the war

Adalah: \"It is absurd that the state refuses to provide shelter to these villages in the Naqab, and at the same time avoids providing vital services to these villages because of the lack of shelters.\"

The new school year starts 1 September 2014, yet many schools in Arab Bedouin villages in the Naqab/Negev remain unconnected to the national electricity grid. Schools in Al Sayed, Al Kahla and other villages are still waiting for the Education Ministry and to fulfill commitments made before the Supreme Court. The national electricity company has been delaying the connection of the schools for many months. In light of Israel’s military operation in Gaza, the company found a new excuse to refrain from linking the Arab Bedouin schools to electricity.

On 26 August 2014, Adalah received the response of the national electricity company to its petition filed in 2013 before the Supreme Court. The company claimed that its work required additional construction work due to new plans to build roads in those areas, and that this would take many months. The company also stated that it received orders from the Israeli military to refrain from conducting construction work in open areas that do not have shelters and safe places to protect them from bombing. Residents of Al Sayed as well as other villages in the Naqab have been requesting shelters for years, which have been ignored by the state.

The electricity company and the Education Ministry have repeatedly refused to connect the schools to the national grid. In 7/13, Adalah filed a petition to the Supreme Court to demand their connection, representing parents of students from seven Arab Bedouin schools (with a combined total of over 3,000 students) that still operate on private generators. These generators provide limited electricity that can be disrupted for several hours, therefore hindering the use and operation of computers, internet services, air conditioners, and other necessities.

The petition, filed by Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher, stated: "The electricity generators and large containers of fuel on school grounds pose a serious danger to children. In many cases, there are no barriers that prevent children from approaching the generators and fuel containers." The petition added: "The operation of the large electrical generators are accompanied by very loud noises that disrupt the children’s learning and make stepping out into the school yard unbearable."

Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher said: "It is absurd that the state refuses to provide protection and shelter to these villages and schools in the Naqab, and at the same time prevents the electricity company from providing vital services to these villages because of the lack of shelters. Postponing the access to electricity for these schools constitutes another act of procrastination on behalf of the authorities. Adalah has been following the issue in the courts for more than a year, and prior to this was in contact with those responsible for many months in order to connect the schools to the electricity grid. Accordingly, we see that the claim of the electricity company is nothing more than another excuse, especially since the process itself does not take a lot of time and can be done very quickly."

Case citation: HCJ 5247/13 Ibrahim Abu Kaff v. Ministry of Education