A ray of light amidst all the difficult news from the south: Rahat's 14,000 schoolchildren will have safer, cleaner, more efficient schools following a precedent-setting government decision to appoint a special trustee to oversee the town's education budget.
The move comes after a three-year struggle on the part of the Rahat Parents' Association and the SHATIL-led Umbrella Forum for Bedouin Education in the Negev and is the result of a high court petition submitted by the two bodies.
The Forum and the Association exposed serious irregularities in the education budget of Rahat, Israel's largest Bedouin city, including suspicions of corruption and neglect. The appointment of the trustee is a precedent-setting achievement; it marks the first time that the law enabling such an appointment, which was passed in 2000, is being implemented.
Bedouin parents protest poor school conditions
Problems in Rahat schools include low standards and achievements, overcrowding, lack of classrooms, poor management, violence and serious security and sanitary violations.
Research by the two bodies revealed that government education budgets were used to cover municipal debts instead of their intended aims, creating intolerable health conditions and other hazards in the schools.
"We created a system of deterrence," said SHATIL lobby consultant Shmulik David, who worked on the issue. "The municipality of Rahat will no longer be able to play with the education budgets. Children in school will have cleaner, healthier environments, and schools will be more orderly and efficient. The system will be less corrupt and people will feel less neglected and cheated. And Rahat parents are empowered as they see the tangible results of their efforts."