There is a shortage of 6,100 classrooms and 4,000 teachers in Arab communities, the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee reported yesterday.
Despite a joint plan of the Education Ministry and the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee from 2008, only part of the plan's recommendations have been implemented, according to a paper prepared by the education committee of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee.
The committee's paper says resources invested in recent years are not sufficient for the growing education needs in the Arab community, after decades of discrimination and neglect.
More than half a million Arab children, a quarter of all Israeli children, are supposed to return to classrooms and kindergartens in the new school year - if they're lucky enough to have one to go to. Some 20 percent of these children are toddlers and preschoolers, 50 percent are enrolled in elementary schools, 15 percent in junior high and 15 percent in high schools.
One of the acute issues listed in the paper is classroom shortage. A five-year plan, authorized by the cabinet in 2007, called for building 3,120 classrooms in Arab schools and kindergartens between 2007 and 2011. The committee says that while construction is proceeding according to plan in most Israeli schools, the Arab schools and kindergartens are still short of 6,100 classrooms.
The Education Ministry's budget for 2011-2012 makes no mention of a plan to build classrooms in Arab schools, although the five-year plan ended this year. Arab schools need 529 additional classrooms a year just to accommodate natural growth, which means that in 2013-2016, some 2,116 classrooms will be required, committee members say.
Arab local authorities say the shortage of classrooms forces them to rent rooms for classes and kindergartens in private buildings. These facilities are unsuitable for studies and the rent prices run to about NIS 40,000 per classroom per year, while the Education Ministry allocates some NIS 10,000 a year for this purpose. Thus, every rented classroom creates a deficit of more than NIS 30,000 in the education budget of the Arab authorities, which are already on the verge of financial collapse, the committee concludes.
The 2007 plan also lists a shortage of about 4,000 teachers, including special-care kindergarten teachers and staff to work with children who have learning disabilities. The shortage of teachers and classrooms widens the gaps in education between the Arab and Jewish communities, says Mohamed Hiadara, chairman of the Higher Monitoring Committee for Education.
The committee also raises the issue of security in schools, in view of an increase in violent incidents and crime both in schools and around them. The committee demands the implementation of a cabinet resolution from 2011, which stipulates state funding for security guards at schools as of January 2012. The Education Ministry is implementing this decision partially and only in high schools, the committee says.
The Education Ministry responded that its five-year plan ending in 2011 budgeted the construction of many more classrooms than those required by the Arab community's natural growth. The 2012 budget allocates funds for building more than 400 kindergarten classes in the Arab community, as part of the Trajtenberg committee's recommendations for free preschool education, it added. The ministry will continue earmarking development funds to accommodate more than the needs dictated by natural growth in a bid to narrow the gaps, the statement said.