State to Open First High School in Unrecognized Bedouin Village

Decision follows agreement between Education Min., Adalah group to increase access and curb drop-out rate.

The Education Ministry announced on Tuesday that it has decided to open for the firs time a high school in an unrecognized Bedouin village in the Negev. The school in the village of Abu Talul will open its doors in 2009.

The decision follows an agreement between the Education Ministry and Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights.

Currently, there are no high schools in villages unrecognized by the state. As a result, there are many Bedouin children, girls in particular, who must either travel far from home to attend school or stay home and skip studies altogether.

An initial attempt to change this situation came in the form of a petition to the High Court of Justice two years ago, on behalf of 35 girls from the Bedouin village of Abu Talul who wanted to study nearer to their homes.

Around 12,000 people live in Abu Talul, including 750 teenagers. Of these, only 173 high-school aged children study in area schools, while the remaining 77 percent tend to drop out.

The petition held that the right of the students to receive an education was compromised by government decisions forbidding them from studying in their local communities.

Also, stated the petition, these government decisions reflect discrimination and ethnic preference in the allocation of resources.

The petitioners presented for comparison the example of neighboring Kibbutz Shoval, which has only 350 residents and a recognized public high school where 450 area youths study.

The opening of the school will save the state a substantial amount of money that is currently being spent on transporting students to schools outside the village.

Recently, members of the Knesset's Education Committee and Interior Ministry Committee toured unrecognized villages in the Negev.

At the end of the tour, MKs Michael Mrlchior (Labor) and Dov Khenin (Hadash) said they had reached the conclusion that there is a need to build schools in the villages themselves, not only for the sake of the students, but for wider economic purposes as well.

This stance has been validated by recent rulings of the Supreme Court on a petition against the Education Ministry, the Israel Lands Authority, and the Negev Building and Planning Council. The petition, submitted by attorney Marwad Elsana on behalf of the 35 female students in Al Talul, received massive support from Arab human rights organizations and the organization for the advancement of Bedouin women.