6 July 2017
Last Monday, July 3rd, I appeared before the Knesset's Education Committee to speak out about the chronic underfunding of special education in Israel.
Every year, more than 25,000 pupils attend special education schools. About 9,000 of them are enrolled in schools that are operated by social organizations like WIZO.
These schools include our WIZO Ahuzat Yeladim in Haifa, sponsored by WIZO Australia, and WIZO Vocational High School in Beit Hakerem, Jerusalem, sponsored by WIZOuk.
In these schools, we provide specialized education and services for youngsters with special needs and disabilities, including behavioral and mental challenges, autism, and learning difficulties.
For years, we have been urging the Ministry of Education to match the funding our schools receive for pupils with special needs with the funding Government-run schools receive. This gap, which currently stands at around 30 percent, must be closed to ensure each child and youth receives top education and equal opportunities.
Our educational staff is doing Avodat Kodesh – sacred work but without suitable funding, our hands are tied behind our backs. Our pupils have the legal right for the same funding as other students in the national education system.
When I spoke before the Members of the Committee, I said: "The national education system discriminates and remains indifferent to the needs of pupils with special needs and disabilities."
"Our pupils and their parents who deal with immense challenges on a daily basis, are burdened with further challenges due to the chronic underfunding in the education system. This injustice hinders the children's ability to succeed in life and integrate into society as equal and contributing citizens. "
WIZO, as an important operator of schools for children with special needs, will continue to work together with other organizations as a united coalition for our children to voice our concern regarding the chronic underfunding of special education in Israel.
I am delighted to announce that shortly after my appeal we were informed by the Ministry that they accepted some of our key demands, including the salary increase for our teachers and paramedical professionals to match the raise of their counterparts in state-run schools.
This is excellent and very encouraging news! Yet our journey is still long.
We will continue to fight for equal funding and ensure each and every one of them receives the same conditions and tools they are entitled to by law.
Prof. Rivka Lazovsky,
Chairperson, World WIZO
*Photo by: Beny Shlevich