Arab Parents Battle Ministry Over Science HS

Parents from the Arab local council of Daburiyya in the Galilee are protesting against the Education Ministry's plans to close a successful high school for sciences.

The contested school was set up in Daburiyya, near Nazareth, as a branch of the Mar Elias school in I'billin, situated south of Acre. Though the school, which has 210 students, boasts a 100-percent matriculation success rate, the ministry has petitioned the courts to order the school closed.

Daburiyya, a local council for 9,000 people, has another older and larger high school, but the science high school was set up by parents concerned about violence and drugs at the older school. The ministry says that school meets the population's scholastic needs, and the newer one, which is run without a permit, will "harm the older school scholastically and economically."

The teachers of the new school - whose students enjoy an 90-point average grade - saw their Education Ministry salaries cut a few month ago, after the ministry began taking steps to close the Daburiyya branch of the Mar Elis school.

Last Thursday, parents demonstrated against closing the school outside the Education Ministry's northern district offices. They also kept their children at home and sent a letter of protest to President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar.

"The cultural atmosphere [at the older Daburiyya school] had become chaotic and the police needed to intervene frequently to settle disputes between pupils," the parents' association said in the letter, explaining why the new school should remain open. The parents argued that the older school's scholastic level had gradually deteriorated to a "very low point," and that violence was common there.

Teachers at the science high say the Education Ministry is preventing their children from taking matriculation exams as "internal pupils," a technical ministry term, which means the pupils belong to a government-recognized high school or institution of learning.

Currently, the school operates from a building that was meant to serve as a residential housing project. Its interior was modified to better accommodate a learning institution, with classrooms, laboratories and a computer room. The parents hope the school will be moved into a bigger building that was built especially to house a school.

The science high school focuses on biology, physics, chemistry and computer science. It attracts a growing number of pupils from neighboring villages. This fact, according to Masalaha Watrash, an attorney and member of the new high school's parents' association, "proves that the school has successfully answered a need for teaching sciences in the Arab sector."