Dear Mayor Barkat,
The lead article of the Jerusalem Municipality proudly proclaims, “Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat opens the 2017-2018 school year.” In the article, you were quoted as saying that the first day of the school year was “the most exciting day of the year for me.”
It was also the most exciting day of the year for my 3-year-old daughter, who this year began her first year of Gan Iriya. Her excitement though has been shadowed by the abject horror we, and many parents around the city, have been dealing with these opening weeks of the school year as we entrust our children in the institutions under your purview.
Below are a few examples from our daughter’s Gan Iriya alone:
- Her building hosts two ganim, which hold 34 and 32 students, respectively. The camera and buzzer system is broken, and so this building has no lock on the front of the building, in complete violation of the guidelines for security put in place by the Ministry of Education. Any stranger can walk into the building and any kid can walk right out. When the gananot, of course, turned to the municipality to fix the issue, they were told there is no more budget to fix the system, and no one will come fix it for at least a month.
- Because this gan is new, the municipality still hasn’t installed the playground equipment in the yard. The yard where the 66 children play, often together, remains empty with no play equipment (other than a mini climbing wall left over from the previous gan). No balls, no hula hoops, no bimbas, no slides… nothing. The only “equipment” around are leftover construction materials: paint canisters, ladders, windows, wooden planks, and other hazardous materials for the children to explore while they are outside with nothing better to do. The kids run around with nothing else to do but fight with each other and climb on walls, and there are already documented injuries.
- This new gan is on the third floor of the building. There are numerous windows, but the soragim bars have not yet been installed, and so the windows have to be locked closed with no natural air coming into the room. Again, we were informed that this situation would not be fixed in the near future.
- In their tzaharon, the ganenet is forced to buy the students bread and chocolate spread on her own because the hot lunch that the municipality is supposed to be providing my daughter and her peers hasn’t been provided yet.
I wish I could say that we are the only ones dealing with these problems. After talking to parents around the city and the gananot who are trying to be our advocates to the municipality, the only conclusion I can come to is there has been a systematic failure at the municipal level for being prepared for this new school year.
The buck stops here, and I’m not only talking about responsibility. After complaining to the municipality, we have been told that there is no budget left now to deal with these problems. “Nothing we can do about it.” So, for the time being, my daughter and her peers will remain not secure in their school, without proper play equipment, and with unhealthy cold meals. While proclaiming you’ve improved city institutions over the summer to prepare for the school year and opened new ganim, you forgot to keep a budget around to have those institutions be managed properly.
Mayor Barkat, you made it a point when you became mayor to hold the Education Portfolio in the city council. Education is important to you after all. In your English biography on the municipality website, the word “education” appears seven times, and a whole paragraph is dedicated to it. However, as head of the Education Portfolio, the responsibility lies with you for preparing the city for the new school year. You have failed us.
The buck does stop here Mayor Barkat. As cameras have caught you on video in times of trouble stopping terrorists around the city, you have gained the reputation of a superhero who jumps into action. Will you now be a hero for the young students in the ganim around your city?
One of the many frustrated parents of Jerusalem
CC: Dov Kalmanovitch, Deputy Mayor
CC: Meir Turgeman, Deputy Mayor
CC: Yosef Deutsch, Deputy Mayor
CC: Ofer Berkovitch, Deputy Mayor
CC: Haim Epstein, Deputy Mayor
CC: Yael Antebi, Deputy Mayor
CC: Yitzchak Pindrus, Deputy Mayor
CC: Hagit Moshe, Deputy Mayor