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Volume 20, November 2005

Adalah Petitions Supreme Court: Education Ministry Failing to Fulfill Commitment to Provide a Preschool Framework for Arab Bedouin Children in the Naqab

On 27 October 2005, Adalah filed a petition to the Supreme Court of Israel against the Minister of Education, the Director of the Ministry of Education – Southern District, the District Committee for Planning and Building – Southern District, the Regional Council for Planning and Building, and the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) demanding that transportation be provided for three and four year-old children from the unrecognized Arab Bedouin village of al-Za’arora in the Naqab (Negev) to preschools in neighboring villages, or the construction of preschools in the village. The petition was filed by Adalah Attorney Morad El-Sana, in Adalah’s own name and on behalf of 51 children from the village, as well as a number of organizations dealing with educational development among the Arab Bedouin in the Naqab.

Adalah asked the Supreme Court hold an urgent hearing on the case, due to the fact that 280 children from al-Za’arora have been spending the day in their homes since the beginning of the current school year rather than attending preschools. The Ministry of Education (MOE) has refused, on one hand, to set up permanent or mobile buildings for preschools for the children due to the unrecognized status of the village they live in, while at the same time failing to provide transportation for them to preschools located in surrounding villages.

As Adalah emphasized in the petition, the MOE has broken the commitments it previously made before the Court to provide transportation to preschools in neighboring villages, in response to two petitions previously submitted by Adalah on the issue.

Adalah argued that this failure violates the children’s right to education, which cannot be conditioned on the lack of an official status of their village. Adalah further contended that the MOE is not implementing Amendment 16 (1984) to the Compulsory Education Law – 1949. This amendment lowered the age at which education is compulsory from five to three years. Adalah contended that the purpose of the amendment is to provide education for underprivileged groups, in order to narrow the gap between them and the rest of society. Although al-Za’arora and the other unrecognized villages are the most socio-economically depressed and underdeveloped in the country, the inhabitants of the village and their children do not enjoy their rights under the Compulsory Education Law in the absence a preschool in the village and transportation to preschools elsewhere.

Adalah submitted the first petition (H.C. 3757/03) in this regard in April 2003, but withdrew it after the MOE claimed that the implementation of the Compulsory Education Law had been frozen under a new economic plan passed by the Knesset in May 2003, and that it would not establish any new preschools for the time being. The Supreme Court emphasized at that time that if the state implemented the law in other towns or villages, despite the freeze and in a discriminatory manner, Adalah may re-submit the petition for consideration.

The petitioners subsequently established that the MOE had been continuing to build preschools in other locations, in contradiction of its representations before the Court. Adalah then submitted a second petition (H.C. 5108/04), demanding that the MOE establish preschools in the village and arguing that the aforementioned Law entitles the children of the villages to the right to the same educational opportunities and resources as other children in the country. However, the MOE claimed that it was not possible to erect structures in the village given its absence from the official maps, and that the children would therefore be transported to preschools in other villages to receive an education. The Supreme Court considered this solution reasonable, and, deciding that there was no need to intervene, rejected the petition.

Adalah continued to monitor the situation, and found that the MOE had not arranged transportation for the children to preschools in neighboring villages claiming that problems remain regarding the children’s safety during transportation. After the MOE failed to respond to numerous letters sent by the children’s parents and Adalah requesting that transport be provided, Adalah submitted the new petition.

H.C. 100030/05, A’aref Ala’moor v. The Ministry of Education (case pending)