Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality reneges on promise to alleviate severe overcrowding at city's largest Arab high school

Adalah petitions District Court against city's decision to use new building as a new sciences school, in violation of prior commitments.

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality has reneged on its long-standing commitment to provide a new building to supplement classrooms at a severely overcrowded Arab school in Jaffa and has declared it will instead give the building to an entirely new school.


Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel filed a petition to the Tel Aviv District Court on 19 April 2017 demanding that the city fulfill its commitment to expand the existing school's overcrowded facilities.


Adalah's petition, filed on behalf of the Municipal School #12's parents committee and student council representatives, demands that the Israeli Education Ministry and the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality allocate the new wing – as long promised – to the overcrowded school.

"I invite Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai to step into our shoes and to see this distress through the eyes of our children. I wonder what the mayor would do if his grandchildren had to go to school in the conditions our children are now facing."

~ Jihan Haddad, Parents’ Committee Chairwoman



In parallel, the school's parents’ committee also called for a two-day strike last week, shutting down the school in protest over the city's decision.


Municipal School #12 is the largest Arab public school in Tel Aviv-Jaffa. (The cities of Tel Aviv and Jaffa were merged into one municipal entity in 1950). While the facility is only authorized to accommodate 600 students, the school has dramatically lowered its dropout rate and 850 students are currently enrolled.


In early January 2017, Tel Aviv municipal representatives unexpectedly told surprised parents that – in violation of all prior agreements and commitments – the new wing would not be handed over to Municipal School #12 to alleviate its overcrowding issue, but would instead be used as a new sciences school.


In the petition, Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher demanded that the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality and the Education Ministry uphold its long-stated commitment to students, parents, and the school administration to earmark the new building for the expansion of Municipal School #12.


On 20 April, the court ordered the municipality and ministry to provide a response to Adalah's petition by 27 April.


In the event that the court decides to allow the new facility to be used to host a new school, Adalah demands that an appropriate alternate solution be found for the expansion of Municipal School #12. The parents’ committee does not oppose the establishment of a new sciences school, but emphasizes that there are already-existing buildings available in Jaffa that may be used for such a purpose.


School’s success in reducing dropout rate led to overcrowding


"As a result of the Municipal School #12's great success in lowering dropout rates, it has been suffering from extreme physical overcrowding over the past number of years," Attorney Zaher wrote in the petition. "As far back as 1998, following extensive discussions between the Education Ministry and the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality's education director, it was decided to implement an expansion plan for the school… According to the plan, the initial stage involved the addition of new floors to the existing school building and the second stage involved the construction of a new facility on adjacent Toulouse Street, which would be appended to the existing school.


"These promises were backed up by official meetings, written documentation, and blueprints and plans drawn up by the municipality."


During the construction of the new facility, a sign placed by the municipality and the Education Ministry specified that the new building was slated for the expansion of Municipal School #12.


To temporarily alleviate severe overcrowding, the school administration moved to convert bomb shelters, a library, science labs, and a gym into makeshift classrooms until the completion of the new wing's construction.


Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality reneges on commitment to school, parents


In January 2017, the city's education director informed shocked parents that a new Arab education reform plan was being implemented and that the new building would therefore instead be used for a new sciences school. The sign outside the construction site announcing the expansion of Municipal School #12 was replaced with new sign announcing the establishment of the sciences school.


Adalah emphasized that the municipality's sudden and inexplicable decision to renege on its commitments violates the students' constitutional right to education.


"The disregard for the serious distress the school is now facing as a result of overcrowding impinges upon the learning environment and harms the quality of education," Attorney Zaher wrote.


Parents: Our kids can't concentrate, have no air or light


Jihan Haddad, chairwoman of the school's parents’ committee and a co-petitioner, stated that: "It is very clear to us that this change is not for the benefit of our kids.  Given the availability of empty structures that could be used for the sciences school, the city's insistence is totally incomprehensible.


"There is no justification for our children to continue to learn in seriously overcrowded conditions created over the course of years by the municipality and the Education Ministry, while they simultaneously promised to expand the school. Our children complain about the overcrowding. They say it makes for a poor educational environment and prevents them from concentrating in class. They also complain about the lack of fresh air and natural light in classrooms that had previously served as bomb shelters.


"I invite Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai to step into our shoes and to see this distress through the eyes of our children. I wonder what the mayor would do if his grandchildren had to go to school in the conditions our children are now facing."


Students outside Municipal School #12 in Jaffa. (Photo: Google Maps)


CLICK HERE to read Adalah's petition [Hebrew]