Israeli Ministry Changes Course, to Spare Adult Education Program for Bedouin Women

The Education Ministry wanted to stop its funding, but under pressure, it extended funding for one more year. It has not, however, committed funding for longer

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Samia Elkrinawi, who studied in the program: 'I want to resume the course.'
Samia Elkrinawi, who studied in the program: 'I want to resume the course.'Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The Education Ministry has reversed its position and will continue to fund an adult education program serving Bedouin in the Negev, but only for a year. The program, which costs 2.2 million shekels ($600,000) per year to run, was due to be closed because its government funding had run out.

The slated closure was reported by Haaretz, leading to inquiries by several Knesset members, after which the Education Ministry relented and agreed to fund it for another year, but it made no commitment beyond that. The program is run by the Israel Association of Community Centers.

“Many women in the Bedouin community are pleased that they will be resuming their studies in this important program,” said Fuad Ziadana, the director of the community center in the Bedouin town of Rahat, which will run seven classes this year in the program.

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The initiative began in 2012 as part of a five-year government plan to improve opportunities for the country's Bedouin population. In August, the head of the Education Ministry’s Southern District at the time, Amira Haim, announced that her ministry would no longer fund it. As a result, no new students were accepted, and those who had started the program were not permitted to progress to do more advanced course work.

Knesset member Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union) recently submitted a parliamentary question on the matter. In response, Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush, who hadn't been familiar with the issue, admitted that its budget was small and that it should be easy to find funding for it. A few days later, the Education Ministry contacted the Association of Community Centers and announced that it would continue the program this year as well. New classes will be organized and local community centers are recruiting new students.

The program is open to all adult students, but it is particularly targeted to Bedouin women who were forced to stop their schooling due to social or economic difficulties. The students are taught Hebrew, English, Arabic, math, civics and the use of computers. The class levels range from basic reading and writing to courses that lead to a high school diploma.

“We are grateful to everyone who has helped bring up this issue,” said Ziadana, but he added: “Funding this program for another year is not enough. The program requires continuity. Anyone woman who begins it needs to finish every phase to fulfill her potential.”

Rahat resident Samia Elkrinawi, 44, who was a student in the program, dropped out of school 30 years ago. She said that she had wanted to study Hebrew so she could open a tourist facility in her home. “I studied Hebrew and English, but the English wasn’t enough. I didn’t have time. I want to resume the course.”