Jerusalem invests millions in Arab schools
When the 2011-2012 school year began in the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, millions of shekels in sparkling new or renewed classrooms, computers and sports facilities greeted 42,153 students and their teachers.
Many of the 59 public schools approved and budgeted under the Jerusalem Education Authority of the Ministry of Education have been neglected, undersupplied or overcrowded for decades. Since taking office in November 2008, Mayor Nir Barkat has been implementing improvements to get these facilities on par with schools in the western sector of the city, says Stephan Miller, advisor to Jerusalem’s mayor.
“The mayor and municipal professionals work regularly with members of the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem through the leadership of the community centers as well as organized groups of residents such as the Mayor’s Forum of Eastern Jerusalem Principals and the Mayor’s Forum for Welfare in Eastern Jerusalem,” Miller tells ISRAEL21c.
“The completion of the Mayor’s plan will lead to a significant change in education in eastern Jerusalem.”
New schools, including approximately 200 classrooms, have been built in the eastern part of the city. The municipality is currently investing the unprecedented sum of NIS 300 million (about $69 million) in the planning and construction of 285 additional new classrooms for Arab schoolchildren.
This year alone, 42 new classrooms will be opened in new buildings, 18 at the start of the year and the remainder in coming months. Six additional kindergarten classrooms were completed in time for September, including one for special education. In addition, more than 40 public school classrooms were renovated and adapted to pupils’ needs, with emphasis on the Shoafat refugee area in northeast Jerusalem.
The municipality also built new sports facilities in south central Beit Tzafafa and in Isawiya in the northeast.
Another NIS 750,000 (more than $170,000) per year has been approved for programs to advance gifted and outstanding pupils, strengthen girls’ education and reduce school violence. An additional NIS 1.5 million is newly designated for the public schools’ organizational expenditures.