Israel Agrees to Fund Visually Impaired Girl's Rides to School Days After Haaretz Report

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9-year-old Fidaa Abu Afash.
9-year-old Fidaa Abu Afash.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The Education Ministry will pay for transportation to school for Fidaa Abu Afash, a 9-year-old visually impaired girl from the Bedouin Wadi al-Na’am community in the Negev, after refusing to do so for over a year.

About two weeks ago Haaretz reported that the ministry was refusing to pay for Abu Afash’s transportation to the bilingual Degania School in Be’er Sheva, where she has been studying since kindergarten, with the explanation that there is a closer school for her. In the wake of this report, last week lawmaker Ahmad Tibi (Joint List) met with Education Minister Yoav Galant (Likud) requesting that he look into the issue; on Sunday Galant informed Tibi that funding for Abu Afash’s rides to school had been approved.

For two years Abu Afash was driven to the Degania School with funding from the Neveh Midbar Regional Council, under whose jurisdiction Wadi al-Na’am falls. Last year, when she was in second grade, the council halted the funding after discovering – they claim – that the Education Ministry was not paying for the transportation. The ministry said that it never paid for the trips to Be’er Sheva because there is a closer school available for Abu Afash – the Elnor School in the Segev Shalom Regional Council. But the studies at Elnor are conducted in Arabic, while Abu Afash reads Braille only in Hebrew.

For over a year, since the funding for the rides ended, Abu Afash has been attending school for two or three days a week. In recent months her mother Nasreen turned to the Education Ministry, through the Horizon for our Children, the national organization of parents for children with blindness and vision impairment and Haran Reichman of the Clinic for Law and Educational Policy at the University of Haifa. The ministry official in charge of transportation in the southern region replied time after time that according to the directives, Abu Afash should be sent to the school closest to her place of residence.

The trip from Abu Afash’s home to the Degania School takes about five minutes longer than the trip to the Elnor School. Last month the organizations submitted a petition against the Education Ministry and the regional council, with a demand that they pay for the transportation.

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