II. Statistical Analysis
Student Absorption Rates
total Arab (Muslim and Christian) population between the ages of five and
nineteen years in the city of Jerusalem in 1998 was approximately 68,700
(see Table 1).[i]
For the 1998-1999 school year, there were 47,180 pupils in the East
Jerusalem Arab education sector, including public, private and religious
schools (see Table 2).[ii]
The remaining 21,520 children either attended school in the West Bank or
did not attend school at all. In 1999 “over 15,000 East Jerusalem
youngsters do not attend any form of education institution.”[iii]
(see Figure 1).
Furthermore, only 27,815 children attended public school in East Jerusalem
during the 1998-1999 school year, a mere 40.5 percent of the total
student-aged population. The public schools in East Jerusalem report
having 28,120 students for the 1999-2000 school year (see Table 3), an
increase of only 305 students. At the same time, the student-aged
population grew by approximately 4,450 students (6.5 percent
[iv]) during the
1998-1999 school year. Thus the education system absorbed only 305 of
4,450 eligible students!
the UDHR and CRC stipulate that every child has the right to a free
primary education and that an elementary education is mandatory, any
failure to absorb children wishing to attend school in Jerusalem
constitutes a direct violation of these rights by the Israeli government.
A report issued by Defense for Children International in November 1999
explains that the official policy of the Jerusalem Municipality is to
accept any child with permanent residency status who applies into the
However, the report goes on to say that parents are not educated about
their rights, may feel intimidated or humiliated by the application
process, and receive inconsistent information from municipal employees
about their children’s status. As a result, many students are not
absorbed into the school system, or, as the report explains, many parents
send their students to schools in the West Bank, unaware that they can
demand placement for their children in East Jerusalem schools.
Even if the remaining student-aged population registered in East Jerusalem
schools for the Fall of 2000, the East Jerusalem school system would be
unable to absorb the new students. It is hardly capable of managing the
approximately 28,000 students currently enrolled. There are 919
classrooms in the East Jerusalem public school system (see Table 3). If
all 15,000 children not enrolled in school were to register in the public
school system, schools would have to place a staggering 47 students in
each classroom. If the students commuting to the West Bank enrolled as
well, the number of students per classroom would rise to 54.
Comparing these figures to those for Jewish West Jerusalem indicates how
Israeli policy and administration differ in the two sides of the city.
The Jewish student-aged population in Jerusalem for 1998-1999 was about
151,200 children (see Table 1).[vi]
That year, there were 137,523 students enrolled in secular and
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools. Thus, approximately 91 percent of the
Jewish, student-aged population was enrolled in school that year, not
including those students in independent institutions. Both secular Hebrew
education and Ultra-Orthodox education are funded by the State.
Therefore, unlike the situation in Arab East Jerusalem, the vast majority
of children in the Jewish sector of Jerusalem are enrolled in publicly
funded schools. The State of Israel and the Jerusalem Municipality are
accommodating all of them.
Comparing class sizes also reveals a discrepancy in the Israeli
administration of the Arab and Jewish sectors. For the 1998-1999 school
year, the Hebrew and Ultra-Orthodox schools had an average of 24.7 and
24.5 pupils per class, respectively (see Table 2).
[vii] At the same time,
Arab public schools averaged 30.9 students per class.[viii]
For the 1999-2000 school year, the average number of Arab pupils per class
remained as high as 30.6 students (see Table 3). Only in Arab private
schools, where conditions are comparable to West Jerusalem schools, does
the average number of students per class drop to 26.8 (see Table 2).
figures are just one indication of the major discrepancies between
education for Arab and Jewish students in Jerusalem. Every year,
thousands of Palestinians are denied an education in East Jerusalem
schools. This issue has been raised and denounced repeatedly by several
sources, including by Defense for Children International and Taher al-Nammari,
Chairman of the Board of Directors of the PHRMG.[ix]
The failure to enroll Arab students in classes and to provide them with
adequate classroom space illustrates the Israeli government’s disregard
for the Palestinians’ right to an education.
Not only are classrooms
insufficient in number they are seriously deficient in their quality. Few
students receive proper physical education, arts education or computer
training. They lack access to libraries and science laboratories. Most
do not receive the academic or vocational education required for
participation in modern technological society.
As shown in
Table 3, only 18 of 35 schools report having any science laboratories at
all. Only 20 of the schools report having outdoor sports facilities.
Only 43 percent of the schools have libraries, and only 31 percent have
computer laboratories. Of all the other facilities listed in Table 3, no
more than 9 schools, or 25.7 percent of all schools, have any of them
(e.g. music, fine arts, etc).
But reality is
even worse than the figures indicate. For example, 14 schools, serving
10,355 students, report having no physical education facilities at all.
Approximately 37 percent of the student population receive no physical
education and have no recreational facilities in their schools. Often,
even those facilities that are available are substandard. “Outdoor sports
facilities” may mean nothing more than a fenced-in blacktop area. At
Ahmed Sameh al-Khaldy Boys’ School, a half-constructed gymnasium has not
progressed in several months.[x]
This gymnasium was included in Table 3 under the assumption that it will
be completed eventually. At Shu’fat Boys’ High School, metal ceiling
panels in the gymnasium threaten to fall at any time, rendering the
gymnasium unusable for the last several years.[xi]
Despite repeated requests from the headmaster, the municipality has not
made the necessary repairs. The outside basketball courts at Shu’fat do
not even have backboards or hoops
Photo 1: A gymnasium under construction at Ahmed Sameh al-Khaldy Boys'
School has not yet progressed in several months. Photographer Joel
Photo 2: Basketball courts at Shu'fat Boys' High School do not even have
backboards or basketball hoops. Many schools in East Jerusalem lack even
the most basic sports facilities. Photographer Joel Sanders
Photo 3: The library at Shu'fat Boys' High School represents the quality
of most libraries in East Jerusalem. Only 15 schools our of 35 in East
Jerusalem have libraries. Photographer Joel Sanders
The conditions for arts education are even more dismal. As many as 21
schools, 60 percent, report having absolutely no facilities for the arts.
Hence, 17,615 students, 62.6 percent of the student population, receive no
art, music, or drama instruction at all. Again, much of the arts
education that is available is substandard. Music classes often consist
of a teacher playing a keyboard in front of a classroom of students for an
hour each week.
Seven of the 35 schools, serving 4,821 students, plus the three schools
for special needs education, report having no science laboratory, computer
laboratory or library. Abu Tour Girls’ Preparatory School reports having
only a very small library. Thus, 11 schools out of 35, serving 19.5
percent of the student population (5,490 students), lack science,
computer, and library facilities.
Those facilities that are available to Palestinian students are poorly
distributed, affecting high school students in particular. Of the seven
high schools in East Jerusalem,[xii]
only four of them have a science laboratory, a computer laboratory, and a
library. The remaining three schools only have one of the three
facilities; two have science laboratories and one has a library. The
absence of these facilities is especially devastating for students at the
high school level.
Fortunately, the high schools that do have all three facilities serve the
vast majority of students. Nonetheless, the quality of those facilities
is marginal. The libraries at the largest two high schools, al-Rashidiyeh
Boys’ High School and al-Ma’mouniyeh Girls’ High School, consist of only
two walls of book shelves, not even ceiling high. Also, the computer
laboratory at al-Rashidiyeh only has 16 computers for 1,100 students and
no internet access.
Ironically, the best schools do not necessarily have the best facilities.
The two high schools whose students receive the highest scores on the
matriculation examinations are Shu’fat Boys’ High School and al-Ma’mouniyeh
Girls’ High Schools.[xiii]
Shu’fat Boy’s High School accepts the brightest students and has the most
discipline, which partially accounts for the better examination results.
However Shu’fat has no science or computer laboratories. The brightest
students in the city lack access to the facilities and materials necessary
for a modern education.
Equipment such as computers is also distributed unevenly. There are 457
computers in East Jerusalem, one to every 61.5 students. Those computers
are accessible to only 10,993 students at 11 schools, or 39.1 percent of
the student population. In other words, about 24 students use each
computer, and 17,127 students (60.9 percent) receive no computer
training. Also, Schools like Khalil al-Sakakini Girls’ Preparatory School
and Abdallah Ibn al-Hussein Boys’ High School have one computer for every
11 and 8 students respectively, while al-Rashidiyeh Boys’ High School has
only one computer for every 69 students.
Photo 4: The computer laboratory at al-Rashidiyeh Boys' High Schol has
only 16 computers for 1,100 students, one computer to every 69 students.
Photographer Joel Sanders
Photo 5: The library at Gymnasia School in West Jerusalem (below as well).
Photographer Joel Sanders
Photo 6: (above) The physics laboratory at Gymnasia School in West
Jerusalem is equipped with 17 computers. The school also has two
biology-chemistry laboratories. (below) The science laboratory at al-Rashidiyeh
Boys' High School is used for biology, physics and chemistry.
Photographer Joel Sanders
In contrast, West Jerusalem schools have far better
facilities. Although the same statistical information is not available
for the West Jerusalem school system, my visits to schools there indicate
a dramatic disparity between the two sides of the city. For instance,
Gymnasia School, a large facility containing a preparatory school and high
school, has two computer laboratories, one biology-chemistry laboratory
for each school, a physics laboratory, a library, an industrial arts room,
an impressive indoor gymnasium, a large outdoor courtyard with basketball
courts, and a performance hall/movie theater that seats approximately 350
Even the physics laboratory has 17 computers of its own. The bomb
shelter, which East Jerusalem schools would typically use as a classroom,
is used as a drama room. In addition to regular coursework, eleventh and
twelfth graders can take sculpture, painting, or photography. All
students can participate in after-school sports, including basketball,
soccer, karate, and tykuando. The gymnasium is used by both students and
citizens from the community nearly all day. East Jerusalem schools have
no money for after-school activities.
Photo 7: (above and below) The library at Zalman Aran Elementary in West
Jerusalem includes several computers. Photographer Evan Weiss
Another example is Zalman Aran Elementary School.[xv]
Zalman Aran has a music room with instruments provided, a modern library
with computers, many places for group study, two courtyards for athletics,
and painting and pottery studios. The school has 46 computers: a computer
in each classroom, two computers in each English language classroom, and
two computer laboratories with 22 and 12 computers respectively. The
hallways are filled with artwork from such artists as Picasso and Chagall,
and various Israeli artists as well. The entrance to the school has a
lovely courtyard with picnic tables and public art.
Photo 8: The computer laboratory at Zalman Aran Elementary in has 22
computers. The school also has another computer laboratory with 22
computers, one computer in each classroom, and two computers in each
English classroom. Photographer Evan Weiss
Photo 9: Works by such artists as Picasso, Chagall, and various Israeli
artists hang in the hallways at Zalman Aran Elementary in West Jerusalem.
Photographer Evan Weiss
Conditions in East Jerusalem private schools are similar to those of
West Jerusalem public schools. Because they are usually funded by foreign
institutions, they also offer the advantage of foreign language study.
But a private education is rather costly. As Asra Kahn indicated, “The
average fees for a private school are about US$ 2000 (approximately NIS
8000 – ed.) per year, making it beyond the means of many families.
Photo 10: The computer laboratory at LaFreres de LaSalle Boys' Private
School has 36 computers. East Jerusalem private schools offer conditions
similar to those of West Jerusalem. Photographer Joel Sanders
Photo 11: A basketball court at LaFreres de LaSalle Boys Private School
inside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City. Private East Jerusalem schools,
like public West Jerusalem schools offer after school sports.
Photographer Joel Sanders
Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, Population, 1999.
[ii] Choshen, M and
Shahar, N. Shnaton: Statistical Yearbook of Jerusalem No. 16 –
1998. Hed Press Limited, Jerusalem, 1999. p. 306.
[iii] Al-Sharabati, Isa.
[iv] Choshen, M and
Shahar, N. 1999. Op Cit. p. 305 as cited in Khan, Azra. Op Cit. p.
[v] Kahn, Azra. The
Right to Education in East Jerusalem. Defense for Children
International, Jerusalem, 1999. pp. 20-25.
[vi] Israeli Central
Bureau of Statistics, Population, 1999.
[vii] Choshen, M and
Shahar, N. 1999. Op Cit. p. 299.
[viii] Choshen, M and
Shahar, N. 1999. Op Cit. p. 299.
[ix] See Khan, Azra.
Op Cit. and al-Nammari, Taher. “Absorption of Students in East
Jerusalem Schools and Their Truancy from Them.” Al-Quds Arabic daily
newspaper, Jerusalem, April 27, 2000.
[x] Visit to Ahmed Sameh
al-Khaldy School conducted on May 13, 2000.
[xi] Visit to Shu’fat
Boys’ High School conducted on April 27, 2000.
[xii] Does not include
schools for special needs education.
[xiii] The principals of
al-Ma’mouniyeh Girls’ High School and Shu’fat Boys’ High School
reported having the most success in the matriculation exams during
visits conducted to the schools on April 18 and April 27, 2000
[xiv] Visit to Gymnasia
School conducted on May 24, 2000.
[xv] Visit to Zalman Aran
conducted on June 23, 2000.
[xvi] Kahn, Azra. Op
Cit. p. 18.