Over the last month, parents in Lod have been registering their children for municipal kindergartens for the next school year. Despite legally mandated free kindergarten for children aged 3-6, parents in Lod, one of Israel’s poorest cities, have been charged illegal fees in the past.
This year, parents were asked to pay nearly $200 for various enrichment programs, which are optional and need not be paid until September.
NIF grantee Community Advocacy: Genesis Israel, together with the Education Clinic in the Human Rights Program at the Academic Center of Law and Business, ran an information campaign informing parents of their rights and ensuring that they did not pay the unnecessary charges.
"This is the fourth year that we have been running a campaign regarding Lod's kindergartens," explains Barbara Epstein, Executive Director of Community Advocacy: Genesis Israel, which runs community-based legal and practical aid and community organizing in Lod, Beer Sheva and Jerusalem. "At first the municipality would refuse to register many Arab children. We have gotten over that obstacle and this year we decided to focus on the illegal fees."
According to Sigalit Givon, Director of Community Advocacy in Lod, in the past Arab children were only registered if their parents cleared all their debts to the municipality. "This measure was illegal and discriminatory because it was not applied to the Jewish population," she said.
This year Arab parents did not suffer discrimination when registering their children for kindergarten. In addition, after Community Advocacy and the Education Clinic wrote to the Ministry of Education demanding that the practice of charging illegal fees was discontinued, the Lod Municipality received a government order to stop charging the fees.