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Dozens of refugee children outside school system

Children of refugees playing in a park in southern Tel Aviv.
(Tamar Dressler/IRIN)

Hope may be on the horizon for dozens of children of refugees and asylum-seekers who fell through the cracks and have been left out of the education system since the school year started last September, the Tel Aviv Municipality said.

"The Tel Aviv Municipality is well aware of the shortage of available places in the schools in the southern Tel Aviv neighbourhoods," spokesman Hillel Fartuk told IRIN, singling out the section of the city where refugees tend to congregate.

"We are doing our best to supply [education to] the children who fall under the primary education criteria," he said, adding that it would like to find places for them in other locations and "open a kindergarten suited to their special needs".

Despite Israel's progressive primary education law - specifying that all children aged 5-15 who have resided in the country for more than three months are to be integrated into the public school system regardless of their legal status (or that of their parents) - about 60 children in this age group were left out of school, Israeli aid workers said.

The municipality's promises would probably only materialise in September at the earliest, meaning these children would have lost an entire year, with some sceptical observers wondering if the problem might not end up dragging into next year as well.

Furthermore, minors aged 16-17, especially the dozens of unaccompanied youngsters who arrived in the country in recent years seeking asylum, would still not have a solution, as the school law does not cover them. Without an education, these would-be students will probably be forced into the manual labour market, and miss out on the opportunity to get better jobs in the future.

When IRIN visited shelters commonly used as living quarters by asylum-seekers in Tel Aviv, quite a few children were playing in the streets during school hours.


Israeli volunteers working with the refugee community operate a classroom in one of the shelters for children aged 6-12.

Photo: Tamar Dressler/IRIN
A protest by African refugees in Israel. The sign in Hebrew reads: "850 Darfur refugees in Israel"

"Some volunteers come in and teach some English and geography, but it's not easy," said Ann Shopie Cardinal who is trying to put together a more organised teaching system in the shelters.

Historically, migrant workers, and later asylum seekers and refugees, placed their children at the tolerant Bialik elementary school in south Tel Aviv, where most students are now children of these immigrants.

A special programme was even implemented in light of their special needs, but the recent influx of refugees and asylum-seekers has stretched the school's resources, and a new solution is required, the aid workers said.

Over 8,500 refugees and asylum-seekers are said to have entered Israel in the last three years, according to UNHCR and aid organisations, with a noticeable increase taking place in the last year.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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