Thousands of Palestinian Children Get Their ‘Education’ On The Streets

The Israeli education system discriminates
against Palestinian children in Jerusalem.
(Mel Frykberg/IPS)

Mel Frykberg

QALANDIYA CHECKPOINT, occupied East Jerusalem (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 Qalandiya 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 occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of 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.

Knesset (Israeli parliament) member Jamal Zahalka claimed earlier in the year that “educational provision for Palestinian children in East Jerusalem is worse than anywhere in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Gaza, or in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.”

More than five thousand Palestinian children in East Jerusalem do not attend school at all. The dropout rate for Palestinian school students in East Jerusalem is fifty percent, compared with about 12 percent for Jewish students.



“The rate of school dropouts, and the level of poverty amongst Palestinians in East Jerusalem, is frightening,” Orly Noy from the Israeli rights group Ir Amim told IPS.

“The severe neglect of the education system in East Jerusalem is brewing a catastrophe,” adds Tali Nir, a lawyer with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

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