Despite Promises, Lod's Arab High School Still Without a Home

The first Arab state high school in Lod is still in antique building, despite promises of modern building closer to students' homes.

The first Arab state high school in Lod was inaugurated last November, in the presence of Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar. The ceremony took place in an antique building in the city, formerly the seat of the Lod regional college, which was meant to serve as a temporary home for the school until a new, modern building is completed closer to the students' homes, in the city's Train neighborhood.

Yesterday, the school once again played host to high-level visitors - this time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and two Likud MKs, Ze'ev Elkin and Gila Gamliel. But this time nobody mentioned the new building, and the temporary home of the 350 students is slowly becoming permanent.

GPO

"Nothing has been built yet, there's only a plot of land," said Abdelkareem Asbargah, chairman of the schools' parents-teachers association. "I regret to say the Education Ministry keeps saying the school will be moved to a new building, but they haven't started constructing it yet. I don't know when they're going to build it."

"There's just no room in the classes any more," he said. "Next year the school will take in several hundred more students, and then what are they going to do?"

In the past few years, the state has earmarked the Lod educational system for rapid improvement, which entailed the transfer of additional funds to the city's schools. The state invests NIS 22 million on pedagogical programs in the city, such as computer equipment,projectors for classrooms and support for Chinese classes. The same funding is expected to continue next year.

But despite the fact that 60 percent of the Lod students fail to pass their matriculation exams, the Lod municipality has returned some NIS 9 million in unused funding that had been allocated by the state for education over the past several years. Last year, the municipality decided to make use of these funds, and requested the Education Ministry transfer them once again. Six million shekels were transferred this year and were invested in infrastructure, while the remaining NIS 3 million will be used next year for extending the school day in the city.

Meanwhile, work has begun on a new student village in Lod, aimed at Tel Aviv students who will agree to work and volunteer in community projects in the city. The village will be comprised of 15 housing units connected by a bike trail to the train station. The city hopes the village will eventually house some 100 students.

"It's important to bring a strong population into Lod to live here and create demand for daycare centers, schools, coffee shops and restaurants," said Aviv Wasserman, the head of the Lod Foundation. "This is what is going to bring real development in the city."

Appointed mayor Meir Nitzan promised yesterday Lod residents will also be eligible for the projects, including "members of minorities who have done National Service."