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Over 5,000 Bedouin children in Israel lack access to legally mandated preschool

Des enfants de bédouins arabes israéliens jouent au pied de la décharge de Dudaim dans le sud d'Israël le 7 février 2016
MENAHEM KAHANA (AFP/Archives)
Unrecognized Bedouin villages not granted building permits or paid transportation for preschoolers

Over 5,000 preschool-aged Bedouin children in Israel are not enrolled in any form of educational framework, according to a report by the country's Education Ministry.

Despite Israel's Compulsory Education Law encompassing preschoolers ages three to five, the Education Ministry does not provide funding for transportation to and from preschool for children in this age group, Ha'aretz reports. Moreover, the state refuses to grant building permits to unrecognized Bedouin communities. 

As a result, some 5,200 Bedouin children do not have access to preschool, according to figures presented in March to a session of the Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee by the head of education for the Bedouin community, Mohammad Heib.

Around 74 percent of Bedouin children without access to preschool live in the jurisdiction of the Neve Midbar and al-Kasom regional councils, Heib told Ha'aretz, which are comprised of many Bedouin communities not recognized by the Israeli government. 

Menahem Kahana (AFP/File)

Yakov Margi, education committee chairman and member of the ultra-orthodox Shas party, called the figures "shocking" and has demanded a resolution to the problem.

"The situation is difficult," Ziyad Nasasra, a teacher and father of five living in the unrecognized village of Alsara tells Ha'aretz. His three-year-old son is not registered in preschool.

"I go to work in the morning and even if I want to take the boy to preschool I can’t. Sometimes he cries when he sees his big brothers going to school in the morning. He has nothing to do, he has no framework," Nasasra says.

Residents of the unrecognized Bedouin village of  al-Sira in the northwestern Negev last week filed a petition against the Education Ministry and the al-Kasom Regional Council demanding that 21 children aged three to five in the village receive access to the education to which they are legally entitled. 

The petition was submitted to the Be’er Sheva District Court on behalf of the village by the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, or Adalah, on Monday. 

Ahmad Gharabli (AFP/File)

Despite the al-Sira's unrecognized status, Israeli courts have ruled against the state's demand that it be demolished, Ha'aretz reports, which residents consider a recognition of sorts.

“Revoking the demolition orders necessarily implies recognition of the villagers’ rights to at least basic, vital services, such as access to education, especially since the state is obliged to provide free education,” the al-Sira petition argues.

The Education Ministry will respond to the petition in court, it said in a statement.

(Staff with agencies)

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