Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Divided We Educate

By Mel Frykberg

"QALANDIA CHECKPOINT, Occupied East Jerusalem, Sep 14, 2010 (IPS) - A thin Palestinian boy, no older than ten, darts between the piles of garbage and the congested lines of traffic which converge at the Qalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

He pleads with bus drivers to allow him on their buses so he can sell chewing gum at a pittance. When nobody buys any gum and the boy is ordered off the bus, he leaves on the verge of tears. Risking life and limb he then moves from car to car begging the frustrated drivers to purchase some of his goods.

Dozens of Palestinian youngsters can be seen on a daily basis at other East Jerusalem checkpoints and intersections – or scavenging through the ubiquitous garbage heaps for salvageable items – which they then try to sell to passing pedestrians and motorists.

Due to the endemic poverty in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, hundreds of Palestinian children are forced on to the streets by parents who are living below the poverty level in a desperate bid to eke out a few extra dollars to help their families survive.

These children should be in school securing a better future for themselves but Israel's discriminatory education policies between Jewish West Jerusalem and Palestinian East Jerusalem is driving these youngsters out of school – if they are lucky enough to be enrolled in the first place.....

Yet 40,000 Palestinian children in East Jerusalem are forced to attend private schools to obtain a decent education. Only 39,523 of 82,250 Palestinian pupils, accounting for 48.05 percent of the children, attend government schools.

Islamic organisations in East Jerusalem provide education for approximately eight percent of Palestinian children, while the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) also does its share.

"Many have to turn to private schools, and thousands who cannot afford to pay stay at home," the report adds......"

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