Last week , the Israeli government made a pledge to the Supreme Court to allocate NIS 70 million ($18.7 million) for paving and improving the infrastructure of roads leading to schools in eight recognized and five unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev. The government decision was made after extensive lobbying and repeated petitions to Israel's Supreme Court by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) on behalf of the SHATIL-led Umbrella Forum for Arab Education in the Negev and Bimkom, along with a separate petition by Adalah. The work is to be completed by 2013.
The surprising but welcome inclusion of unrecognized Bedouin villages in the government's decision is an important first step in the government accepting responsibility for providing basic services to residents of these villages – a struggle SHATIL has been leading for years.
An unpaved road to a Bedouin school in the Negev
"This decision is a victory for school children's rights," said Dr. Awad Abu Freih, coordinator of SHATIL's Umbrella Forum for Bedouin Education in the Negev. "No more shaky rides to school on dangerous, dusty, unpaved roads.
"Unfortunately this was a decision written in blood -- the blood of three small children who were killed on these roads on their way to school," he continued. "This achievement carries out the promise that Forum members made by these children's graves: no more death on the roads."
The decision marks one important step forward towards the goal of ensuring quality and safe education to all Bedouin children.
SHATIL, the Forum and the other organizations involved will closely monitor implementation of the government's decision, ensuring that the funds are spent wisely and the roads improved as quickly as possible, preventing any further needless and tragic deaths.