Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Petah Tikvah city hall won't let Ethiopian kids transfer out of elementary school in Israel

Dozens of parents of Ethiopian origin have been blocked by the Petah Tikva municipality from moving their children from the majority-Ethiopian religious Ner Etzion elementary school to other schools in the city. Most of the requests were based on the parents' desire not to have their children studying in a school whose student population was nearly exclusively Ethiopian. The municipality, backed by the Education Ministry, rejected most of the requests, saying that it could not force the other religious schools, private and public, to accept a large group of Ethiopian students. "The arrangement with the schools is based on the assumption that each religious school takes only a small group of Ethiopian students. Taking several dozen such children is out of the question," a source with close knowledge of the Petah Tikva education system said. Of the 290 students expected to attend Ner Etzion, only one, is not of Ethiopian origin. The process by which the Ethiopian students became the school's majority took place over a period of years, and is due to the large number of Ethiopian families in the underprivileged neighborhoods for whom this is their default school, and partly because the parents not of Ethiopian background removed their children from the school. Some moved their children to independent Orthodox Jewish schools (most of them associated with Shas), while others moved their children to other state-religious schools, with the approval of the municipality. Another source said that Ner Etzion provided a convenient solution for everyone involved - everyone, that is, except the parents who wanted to move their children to a different school. "The existence of a school that contains nearly 300 children of Ethiopian background means other schools don't need to take them," the source said. Children in the largely Ethiopian neighborhood were divided on the issue, with some saying they'd like to have some "white" friends and other saying Caucasian Israeli Jews shunned them at school and called them "Negroes."

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