180 Girls and Women Teachers All Line Up for Just One Bathroom

The 180 girls studying at Hadera's Noam elementary school and their female teachers share only one toilet stall. At recess a long line forms outside the toilet, and some of the teachers say they are forced to work the entire school day, from 7:30 A.M. to 3:30 P.M., without going to the toilet.

The boys have four toilet stalls, but some of them are unusable due to blocked sewerage pipes and leaks.

"Beyond the health hazard to the girls and us," one of the female teachers says, "the continued neglect shows the [municipality's] contempt for the most basic human needs."

Hadera municipality, which is responsible for the school's maintenance, blames the Noam non-government organization operating the school for the situation.

The school, which belongs to the Noam chain of religious state schools, relocated a few days before the school year began on September 1 to a new building that was unsuitable as a school for 316 pupils in first to sixth grades and 27 teachers. The toilet stalls are insufficient or out of order, some of the air-conditioning units do not work and there is no adequate transportation for the children. One of the classrooms lacks a door.

"We're doing our best to bring the structure to a reasonable standard, but some things are beyond our power," says principal Rami Biton.

The city began installing additional toilet stalls for girls and fixing the boys' toilets, but the work has yet to be completed. "They keep telling us they are dealing with the problems but nothing is happening," says Yakir Maor, a member of the school's parents committee.

"Immediately after the school year opened they promised to complete the repairs during the holidays. But they didn't do that either. It's hard to believe that anyone would agree to have only one toilet stall in city hall," he says.

"I'm angry at the municipality, but also at ourselves for keeping quiet for two months and letting them continue this situation," says parents committee chair Zmira Halevy.

"In recess there's a long line to the toilet so I try to hold it in until the end of the school day," says Nirit, a pupil. "It's no fun studying like this."

"I feel this is harmful to the girls' health and to ours," says one teacher. "Not going to the bathroom makes the teachers less patient in the classroom. A functioning bathroom with sufficient stalls are the most minimal conditions. Even animals have better conditions."

Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, director of the National Council for the Child, says "this building is unfit for human beings. Even many Third World places have better conditions."

The Education Ministry commented that "the owner - the local authority - is responsible for the school's infrastructures."

Hadera's municipality said it is aware of the problems and "a work plan approved for 2009 includes upgrading the schoolyard, including the toilet facilities."

Hadera's education department director Amnon Arye said the city has invested some NIS 200,000 into converting the new building into a school "although two-thirds of the pupils aren't even residents of Hadera. It's the Noam NGO's responsibility and not the municipality's."