During the school year 2021/2022, there were about 98,428 students in Jerusalem, enrolled at different school levels (not including kindergartens). About 45,500 of these students go to 146 schools under the Palestinian umbrella (Public Endowments school, private schools, and UNRWA schools). The rest of students go to schools run by the Occupation government. These schools include historic schools that were seized by the occupying forces when they occupied the eastern part of Jerusalem in 1967, rented schools, and a few relatively modern schools. The Occupation exploits the lack of adequate school buildings and imposes the Israeli curriculum in these schools, meanwhile, the majority of Jerusalem students learn the Palestinian curriculum in schools that work within the two umbrellas.
School buildings and classrooms:
1- Sufficiency of the number of classrooms and buildings:
The population growth rate for East Jerusalemites is estimated at 2.5%, and the annual need for new classrooms is estimated at about 80 classrooms. This number of needed classrooms is not met annually, with an average of nearly half of additional needed classrooms built annually. Schools within the Palestinian umbrella can accommodate about 31,500 students while they serve 45,500 students. Thus, an extra 560 new classes are currently needed, in addition to 80 new classes that need to be added annually. Accordingly, there is a need to add 960 classrooms over the next five years.
2. Status of existing buildings:
According to the international design standards of model schools, ventilation and natural lighting must be provided by directing classrooms on the north side of the building. Schools should allocate an average of 2 square meters per student within the classroom, and a classroom area of 65 square meters for an average of 30 students. As a general average, schools need to have 12 sanitary units per 250 students, 5 drinking points per 100 students and a laboratory with an area of at least 75 square meters. Schools should also provide suitable size areas for courtyards and playgrounds to serve as a safe outlet for this number of students.
Jerusalem's schools are mostly residential buildings that have been adapted to be used as schools, and do not have all the specifications for the model school. According to data provided by the Directorate of Education prior to the 2019/2020 academic year, the student area in the classroom in Public Endowments schools is approximately 1.60 square meters, compared to 1.52 square meters in private schools. Of the total 146 schools, only 96 have a science laboratory with an average area of 48.31 square meters, and only 121 have a computer laboratory with an average area of 44.60 square meters. The 146 schools have a total of 1,825 sanitary units, compared to at least 2,200 health units that must be available for the total 45,850 students. In terms of drinking water, 83 schools (or 56.85% of schools) need to provide an additional 947 drinking water taps and 716 additional sanitary units, while 50 schools (or 34.25% of schools) need to provide an additional 242 sinks. During the year 2021 the Faisal Husseini Foundation was able to provide 14% of the needed number of drinking water taps and is seeking to provide the rest.
Interventions needed by schools under the Palestinian umbrella with regard to infrastructure:
All these schools urgently need ongoing periodic maintenance in order to maintain their durability, whether by carrying out rehabilitation work for their infrastructure such as walls, floors, windows, doors, sanitary units, laboratories, libraries and playgrounds. Schools also need to provide basic needs for serving and providing safety for their students such as safe access and appropriate facilities for students with special needs (these are not available in approximately 82.19% of schools according to 2020 statistics), fire alarm and extinguisher systems (not available in 15% of schools according to 2020 statistics), and shaded areas (not available in 26.03% of schools according to 2020 statistics).
According to the data provided by the Jerusalem Directorate of Education for the 2019/2020 academic year, there are two schools that do not have any playgrounds or courtyards, and 65 other schools that allocate less than 2 square meters per student in their outdoor spaces. It should be noted that 43 of which have the potential to provide additional playground areas through the rehabilitation of available unused land within the school property. For the remaining 24 schools, they are unfit to be used as schools, as they do not provide their 9,282 students with safe outdoor facilities, thus increasing cases of potential violence in these schools. The lack of adequate facilities calls for the ending of the utilization of these buildings as schools — with the possibility of being converted into administrative offices or kindergartens — and will therefore require adding more schools to absorb these students.
A relatively rapid alternative plan is to carry out rehabilitation work for existing buildings, and redesigning the interior space to expand classroom spaces where possible and to provide part of the necessary facilities at the school. It should be noted that there are 218 unused rooms in 64 Jerusalem schools that can be utilized for necessary facilities for the school. There are also options to build additional floors in schools that already have building permits, thereby increasing the number of classrooms and educational and sanitary facilities, and upgrading school infrastructure. This plan takes at least 8 months, compared to the rehabilitation work of a maximum of 4 months, and this timeframe can be increased or decreased according to the location and size of the school to be rehabilitated. This solution requires collecting data on schools that have building permits for additional floors — mostly private schools — and that they are within the boundaries of residential areas with a shortage of schools in terms of their population.
The ideal solution to address the problem of the development of Jerusalem schools to provide healthy and safe school environments is to build model schools, in accordance with the highest architectural and engineering standards. Although this will take at least 5 years, however, building schools with these standards will provide appropriate spaces to accommodate students, adequate numbers of educational and sanitary facilities, and the required spaces of playgrounds and courtyards for sports and extracurricular activities.
4- The Curriculum:
With the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967 and taking over public school buildings, the authorities started to try to change the curriculum at these schools, and in 1971, they decided to impose the Israeli curriculum in the schools under their control. In response, the staffs of these schools protested and stopped teaching in those buildings, and they started to establish schools in residential buildings. Meanwhile, the deep-rooted private schools of Jerusalem continued with teaching the Jordanian curriculum. The Occupation was then forced to reverse its decision and return to the education of the Jordanian curriculum. Today, the majority of schools controlled by the municipality of Occupation still teach the Palestinian curriculum, and are run and taught by Palestinians who care for these schools. Thus, despite 55 years of occupation of the eastern part of the city, the Palestinians succeeded in maintaining its Arab curriculum which tells its Palestinian narrative.
However as Palestinians, we were not able to build enough schools because of the obstructive occupation measures. The construction was limited to a few, but important schools, such as the Brothers’ school in Beit Hanina, the Rosary Sisters, the Comprehensive Young Women Secondary school, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, Altala’e’ and other schools. The creation of these schools was another challenge (and also a success) for the Palestinians in their determination to preserve the Arabization of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the Occupation has recently worked, after a major failure for 55 years, to build new schools. It is taking advantage of the shortage of classrooms and the need for new buildings to impose their curriculum on these schools.
5- School needs for appliances and furniture:
1- Needs for equipment and furniture:
According to the Faisal Husseini Foundation (FHF) study conducted in March 2022 (this study identified the needs of equipment and furniture for 116 schools out of the 146 schools), the data showed that schools’ need of appliances and furniture is valued at $11,814,685, distributed as follows:
Estimated cost in USD
Number of schools in need
Required quantity for schools
Upgrade UTM License
Computerized management systems
Electronic writing boards
Desks connected to a chair for one student
Desks connected to a chair for two students
Separate desks for one student
Wooden cabinets with different shelves
Wooden classroom cabinets
Wooden cabinets for administration rooms
Metal cabinets with different shelves
Classroom tables for teachers
Classroom teacher chairs
Reception area chairs
Tables for library
Shelves for libraries
Librarian furniture / desks
Books for libraries for private schools (the estimates are according to school needs)
Equipment and lab tools (the estimates are according to school needs)
Other needs for private schools (the estimates are according to school needs)
Needs of the Ministry of Education schools (books, lab equipment and tools, and materials for sports activities
Total estimates in USD
6- The work of the Faisal Husseini Foundation in the education sector:
Over the past 20 years, the Foundation has worked with 95 schools in Jerusalem that are part of the Palestinian umbrella. It worked holistically, and within its program entitled “Comprehensive School Upgrading program upgrading, with 31 schools. This included providing training programs and infrastructure development programs, within the vision of developing critical thinking and scientific research education in a school environment that promotes Palestinian identity and that preserves children's rights, democracy and equality. As part of its training programs, the Foundation worked with school administrations and staff, students and parents to develop common educational visions and concepts that evolve into participatory school constitutions. The Foundation trained teachers on using inquiry based teaching to teach different subjects of natural sciences, history, Arabic language and social studies enabling students to develop higher thinking skills. This also included training teachers to provide students with skills to build and program robots, as well as training teachers to detect signs of dyslexia. The Foundation also diagnosed and treated students with learning disabilities in lower grades.
Under the infrastructure development program, the Foundation worked with 67 schools (including 31 within the comprehensive development program), with a diversity of interventions according to needs in these schools. The Foundation worked to restore sanitary facilities, increase electricity capacity, establish courtyards, playgrounds and gardens, provide science and computer laboratories and libraries, restore classrooms, provide educational facilities, add shades, construct emergency staircases, install heating units, add sound, protection and fire systems, and construct a semi-Olympic swimming pool in one school.