Thousands of Bedouin preschool kids stuck at home because Israel fails to transfer budget for schools' buses

Preschool kids from 20 villages in Neve Midbar Regional Council have been stuck at home for three days; Adalah demands Israeli Education Ministry and regional council immediately renew buses.

School bus service for Bedouin preschool kids from 20 villages in the Naqab (Negev) region was halted last week without any prior warning.


On Sunday, 12 January 2020, the Neve Midbar Regional Council announced that bussing for three and four-year-old pre-school children from 20 villages (four recognized and 16 unrecognized villages) in which Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel live would be discontinued the next day.


The regional council announced it was ceasing school bus services because the Israeli Education Ministry had failed to transfer funding for the transportation project.


These 20 villages have no schools of their own and the school bus program was introduced by Israeli authorities in order to ensure compliance with the Compulsory Education Law.


Despite a 1984 amendment to the Compulsory Education Law (1949) to provide free and mandatory education for children from age three –– and a 2012 directive that by 2016 this law must be implemented to include all children, a Knesset report indicates that 4,718 Bedouin children between the ages of three and five did not attend preschools or kindergartens during the 2017-2018 academic year.


On 14 January 2020, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent an urgent letter to the Education Ministry and the Neve Midbar Regional Council, on behalf of parents of affected children and the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages, demanding the immediate transfer of funds and renewal of school buses.


In the letter, Adalah Attorney Aiah Haj Odeh argued that halting the buses constitutes a serious and disproportionate violation of the right to education, and a failure by Israeli authorities to fulfill its obligations under the Compulsory Education Law. Adalah has worked for years to try to secure the establishment of pre-schools and/or transport to pre-schools for Bedouin children living in the Naqab.


Adalah Attorney Aiah Haj Odeh adds:


"Israeli authorities have prevented the establishment of schools in unrecognized Bedouin villages in an effort to pressure residents to surrender to its campaign of forcible displacement, and the cessation of school buses serving these preschools adds insult to injury. We hope that Israeli authorities will immediately fulfill their legal obligations so that we needn't appeal to the courts."


CLICK HERE to read Adalah's letter [Hebrew]