On May 31, the Forum for Childhood Education in the Triangle was officially launched. Consisting of mayors, activists, educators and concerned residents, the Forum aims to ensure that more than 2,500 children aged 3-4 in the predominantly Arab-Israeli Triangle region in central Israel will benefit from free early childhood education. Despite existing legislation and a longstanding government commitment, residents of the area are presently denied access to pre-K education for their children.
The forum is the product of extensive efforts of the Childhood Association, a local women's organization that is taking the lead in advancing the issue. Sumaya Haj-Yihye, the organization's director, notes that SHATIL's contribution was indispensable. Deciding to establish the forum, she explains, came about, "after extensive discussions with Shmulik David [SHATIL's advocacy consultant] as we became convinced that the best way to tackle the issue is by establishing a regional forum. " With Shmulik's assistance, she learned how to approach and recruit decision- makers – ultimately convening a diverse and influential group with significant potential to effect change.
Dr. Jahad Iraki, a former supervisor at the Ministry of Education commented: "Studies show that each dollar invested in childhood education ultimately generates an income of seven dollars. Solid investment in young children prevents the need for much larger future investments, whether in education, welfare, health and even in building prisons. We must convince the government that this investment is incredibly worthwhile."
The event was discussed in Israel's official Arabic-language radio station, where Haj-Yihye and an advisor to the Minister of Education debated the issue. With new and influential partners and considerable community enthusiasm, Haj-Yihye is confident that that Forum will indeed achieve its objective and create a better future for more than 2,500 young children.
Haj-Yihye attributes much of their success to SHATIL: "For more than two years SHATIL has been helping us a lot, and it is thanks to SHATIL that we are working professionally rather than improvising as we go along. Without SHATIL, this wouldn't have happened."