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Supreme Court seeking to compel Israeli authorities to link Arab schools to electricity grid.

Al Naqab Desert / PNN - The Center for Justice has petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to force the Israeli Ministry of Education and Electricity Company to connect a school in the village of Abu Thelol to the electricity grid in the Al Naqab (Negev) Desert. Towns in the area are considered "unrecognized" and face routine harassment including home demolition and land and tree razing. The Arab Naqab villages are also not afforded the same state courtesies, such as electricity, as are others within Israeli boundaries. There are more than 23,000 students studying in schools belonging to unrecognized Arab villages in the Naqab. Most of these schools are not linked to the national electricity grid. The schools obtain electricity via generators, leading to massive fuel costs. These generators work for seven hours a day at most, and so power supply to the whole school gets interrupt when they go down. The ability of the generators to produce electricity is limited and insufficient to meet the needs of schools, residents say. This forces the schools to reduce their consumption of electricity, such as confining themselves to the lighting and operation of only absolutely necessary small appliances. The network does not produce enough temporary power for the operation of computer rooms, laboratories and other equipment necessary for education as they need to have a strong continuous electric current. The current electricity grid does not allow for the operation of air conditioners to help deal with the desert heat in summer and bitter cold in winter. The school is forced to cancel classes due to the fact that students cannot learn in such an extreme environment. The existence of a generator and fuel depots beside the school also pose a real danger to the lives of the students and faculty. Not only are they flammable, but there are laboratories where the students need electrical equipment to work when dealing with certain chemicals. The lawyer for the Center for Justice says that the failure to link the schools to the electricity grid results in a weak electric current and disconnection for the majority of the day. This means the loss of classroom time and the denial of learning specific topics that need laboratories and computers. All of this infringes on the student's right to an education. The lawyer added that students who live in unrecognized villages usually base their hope for a career on technology, which can be denied for them if they do not have access to electricity. Electricity was not near the schools in the unrecognized villages until 1999 when the Supreme Court forced the state authorities to link them to the electricity grid. The state court had ordered all schools to be connected to the Negev Electricity Grid, with generators used only in places that are too difficult to be reached. Even then, the generators were only meant to be a temporary solution, but many have been in place for up to 10 years. According to the petition circulating to force the Israeli administration to allow for proper electricity, there is no technical impediment to linking schools to the electricity grid especially since the grid is connected to two schools less than 250 meters away. According to testing conducted by an expert engineer, the cost of operating the generators in the 23 schools costs more than 17 million shekels a year. The Center has stressed that the Arab schools in the Naqab Desert are the only schools not connected to the electricity grid within Israeli boundaries.

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Publication:Palestine News Network (West Bank, Palestine)
Date:Jul 7, 2009
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