Thousands of Palestinian Bedouin preschoolers haven’t been in class for days after Israeli authorities halted their only means of getting to school.
The Neve Midbar Regional Council announced on 12 January that buses would stop serving 20 villages in the southern Naqab (Negev) region the next day without prior warning.
It is notable that 16 of the affected villages are “unrecognized,” including Bir al-Hammam, al-Zarnouq, Abda and Rahma, among others.
Israel virtually bars unrecognized villages in the Naqab from building new structures.
No access to schools
Israel has forcibly displaced Bedouins residing in those villages multiple times since its establishment in 1948.
In addition to barring development, Israel denies Bedouin communities essential services like adequate water and electricity.
Thousands of Bedouins have had their citizenship revoked.
The Israeli government is still intent on expelling Bedouins from the unrecognized Naqab village of Umm al-Hiran in order to build a Jewish-only settlement in its place.
Last April, Israel said it would build an elementary school in the village of Rahma after 13 years of local struggle.
Even then, the school will be a “temporary campus made up of mobile homes,” according to Israeli daily Haaretz.
Right to education
Israeli law mandates education for children aged 3 to 15.
Yet a recent report by Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, says that nearly 5,000 Bedouin children between the ages of 3 and 5 did not attend school in the 2017-2018 academic years.
Since Bedouin residents of unrecognized villages are barred from building, their children are forced to travel to schools far away.
Children in Rahma have had to commute 26 kilometers to the villages of Wadi al-Naam and Qasr al-Sir to attend elementary school.
The decision to halt bus services hinders children’s right to an “accessible, adequate, safe and decent education,” Adalah said in a letter to Israel’s education ministry and Neve Midbar Regional Council.
Adalah attorney Aiah Haj Odeh wrote the letter on behalf of the children’s parents and the Regional Council for Unrecognized Villages in the Negev, a grassroots committee established in 1997.
Adalah is demanding that Israel’s education ministry immediately renew funding for the school buses.
No running water in school
The rights of school children are also being violated elsewhere in the Naqab.
Some 500 students of the Tel Arad School have had no access to running water recently.
The education ministry and the al-Kasum regional council, where the school is located, said they would resolve the issue. But they have yet to do so, according to parents.
Parents decided to go on strike and not send their children to school until the issue is resolved.
One parent ran a water pipe from his own house to the school, but this was not a sustainable solution.
“The responsibility is of the state, and not of the parents to make sure there will be running water for our children,” said Ali Nabari, the head of the parent association.