Advocacy by civil society organizations, including Shatil, saved a program that gives Bedouin who dropped out of school the equivalent of a high school education.
The Ministry of Education had decided to close the NIS 2 million program for lack of funds. But after the organizations lobbied Knesset members to take action, sent letters to seven government ministries, circulated a petition, and wrote a position paper, the ministry announced on November 7th that it would find the funds to continue the program for another year.
“This is compensation for a historic injustice,” said Shatil advocacy expert Shmulik David. “There is ongoing, serious discrimination in budgets for Bedouin schools, their level is extremely low and the dropout rate is high. This is the only state-funded program that helps adult Bedouin women who dropped out of school years ago.”
Shatil and its partners are pushing for the government to fund the program beyond one year.
Since 2012, the program had run 24 classes in six Bedouin towns for 500 Bedouin annually, the majority of whom were women. This was part of a government decision to invest in the economic development of the Bedouin population. Participants learned basic skills in English, Hebrew, math, citizenship, and computers, enabling them to integrate into the job market, help their children with school work, and become part of Israeli society. Some were illiterate before participating in the program.
MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union) who raised the issue with the Education Ministry, told Haaretz, “There is an injustice here that cries out to the heavens. How much evil and insensitivity is necessary in order not to transfer a measly NIS 2 million, to give these people a new chance?”
The Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality led the campaign to save the program. It partnered with the Alhuquq Center, Sidreh-Lakiya, the Adva Center, and Shatil’s Center for Policy Change.
Photo by Eyal Warshavsky