More than 3,000 students from the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya went on strike on Wednesday to protest a severe deficit of classrooms in the impoverished Arab neighborhood.
According to Darwaish Darwish, the community "mukhtar" or elected leader, the neighborhood is missing 20 classrooms for an estimated 800 students. Darwish said the community also desperately needs a girls' high school and that 200 high school girls have nowhere to learn.
"Every year we have the same problem," Darwish said on Wednesday, ahead of a meeting with municipality officials to try to stop the strike. "Last year the mayor came and said he would build. But we've been sending letters telling them we have a serious problem and that they need to build classrooms and they don't answer," he said.
In a scathing report released this week, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Ir Amim said that despite municipal efforts, the gaps between east Jerusalem and west Jerusalem schools are staggering. According to their estimates, east Jerusalem is missing an estimated 1,100 classrooms.
East Jerusalem schools also have one of the highest drop-out rates in the country, at 40 percent of 12th graders; have just one guidance counselor per 2,500 students; and have resources to provide free nursery school for only 5 percent of students between the ages of three to six despite Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s promise for free schooling starting two years before kindergarten.
The report also highlighted the fact that 20,000 young people in east Jerusalem between the ages of six and 18 are not enrolled in any municipal school framework.
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