The 2003/04 school-year has opened at Youth Aliyah’s residential villages, and better than ever educational opportunities are being offered to Israel’s disadvantaged students. This investment by Youth Aliyah in the comprehensive education of childrenat-risk in a residential environment that also includes informal enrichment activities, therapy, round-the-clock supervision, love and attention is proven as the most effective way of breaking the vicious circle. The need is greater than ever as government social support cuts and reductions in child welfare payments over the summer as well as rising unemployment have all hit hardest the socio-economic sectors, who send their children to Youth Aliyah schools.
“We see the economic recession in the dining room,” said Hezi Panet, Director of Kiryat Yearim. “The children are coming back from home much hungrier than in the past. They are also unhappier than they used to be about going home at weekends.”
Yossi Krothamer, Director of Ben Yakir makes similar observations about the children at his residential village. “We see parents who are getting more and more desparate,” he stressed. “We even had a family who virtually abandoned two of their children at the village gates on the first day of school. Of course we took the 13 and 14 year-old brothers, though their parents did not even take the trouble to register them. We will give them lots of love and dedicate ourselves to their education and in that way compensate for the neglect they have suffered.”
At Ramat Hadassah Szold the story of increased parental neglect due to the economic recession is a similar one. “The children are often ashamed to admit how bad things are at home,” commented Director Zvi Astrachan. “We often take them on the side and give them new clothes, or send them home at weekends with food packages, so their fellow students won’t know they are receiving our help.”
Despite Ministry of Education cuts to the residential villages, Ramat Hadassah Szold has been able to reduce average class sizes from 24 to 15 due to increased contributions from Youth Aliyah’s supporters.
All three remedial junior high schools – Kiryat Yearim, Ben Yakir and Ramat Hadassah Szold – have also enlarged their external high school programs – meaning that students who complete ninth grade can carry on living at the residential village, while being integrated into the mainstream education system by studying at nearby high schools.
Hadassah Neurim, Youth Aliyah’s residential high school has also been hit hard by Ministry of Education budget cuts. “Teaching hours have been cut,” explained Nachum Katz, Director of Hadassah Neurim. “And parents are struggling to pay the already heavily subsidized school fees. But despite all this we feel our children are getting more than ever. This includes programs that give the children more individual tutoring and raise academic results, and re-arranged dormitory accommodation to provide a more family atmosphere and more counseling attention.”
At Nitzana in the Negev 48 new immigrant students from the Former Soviet Union have started the sixth SELAH Science program, while 50 young adult immigrants from Ethiopia have commenced the third KEDMA program. “This year we are expanding the social integration program,” explained Nitzana Director David Palmach. “Successfully introduced last year, the program offers the two immigrant groups greater opportunities to get to know each other within the framework of crosscultural social programs, informal education and extra-curricular activities.”
Heshvan 5764 - November 2003