Ethiopian Jews can now send their children to private schools, thanks to the Israeli government and people like Sewnet Workineh, who joined in public protests against schools that barred Ethiopian children.
Workineh, a poor Ethiopian farmer from Gondar who moved with his family of six to Israel three years ago, joined a recent public demonstration against state-supported religious schools that had denied his sons admission because they were Ethiopians. As a result of the demonstrations, Israel's ministries of foreign affairs and education recently forced the private religious schools to accept Ethiopian students or lose public funding. Prime Minister Shimon Perez also criticized the schools for banning Ethiopians.
"I don't want them to grown up as peasants like I did," said Sewnet. "I was worried my children would not get the best education they need to succeed," he said.
Sewnet says there is a common bias against Ethiopian students that they are mentally inferior in the schools in Israel. "Our children do not speak the language, they are adjusting to a new way of life and a different education system, they are expected to have a slow start," Sewnet said. "Given time I have no doubt that our children will catch up."
He was interviewed by Konjit Taye and Henok Fente of the Sunday Mestawot show. They also talked to Rahmin Alazar, an Amharic broadcaster for Radio Israel about the education controversy.