Non-profit project proposal.
Rambam Elementary School in Netanya, Israel, serves the children of Ethiopian immigrants. This proposal seeks funding to make translators available in the school to facilitate meetings between Amharic-speaking parents and Hebrew-speaking teachers and school administrators. This will increase parental involvement in students’ education, improve student homework performance, and increase teachers’ awareness of their students’ home environment.
The Ethiopian population in Israel, numbering 85,000 people, arrived primarily in waves centered on two airlift operations in 1984 and 1991. As a minority group in Ethiopia, Jews face increased persecution in times of famine and political unrest. Thousands of Jews fled Ethiopia for Sudanese refugee camps during a famine in 1984. In a collaborative effort between the Israeli Defense Forces, the American Central Intelligence Agency and Khartoum officials, over 8,000 people were secretly airlifted to Israel from the refugee camps. This effort, called Operation Moses, was halted after six weeks when news of it leaked to the media and surrounding Arab nations pressured Sudan to discontinue its support. The communist Mengistu regime prevented mass Ethiopian Jewish immigration to Israel for several years following the famine. When a coup was imminent in 1991, the Israeli Defense Forces executed another mass airlift called Operation Solomon. In 36 hours of non-stop flights, over 14,000 people were airlifted from Ethiopia to Israel. In subsequent years, groups of Jews have continued to congregate in Addis Ababa and immigrate to Israel at a rate of 2,500-3,500 people per year.
Over 75% of Ethiopian-Israelis lived through subsistence agriculture before arriving in Israel, a fully industrialized nation. These immigrants are unfamiliar with bureaucracy and often fail to receive social benefits relating to immigrant absorption, education and employment due to lack of access to information and their inability to self-advocate. Almost all Ethiopian immigrants live in absorption centers upon immediate arrival, and then move to subsidized urban housing in the country’s central region.
Statement of Need
Netanya, a city about fifteen miles north of Tel Aviv, is home to 12,000 Ethiopian-Israelis. This represents the nation’s largest Ethiopian community. Rambam Elementary School, a public school in the heavily Ethiopian North Poleg neighborhood of Netanya, serves 279 students; 260 of them are the children of Ethiopian immigrants. The school has no Ethiopian teaching or administrative staff, nor any who speak Amharic. Many students’ parents speak limited amounts of Hebrew.
The language barrier between Amharic-speaking parents and Hebrew-speaking teachers and school administrators prevents vital parent-teacher dialogue, which limits parental awareness of curriculum and student performance and teachers’ awareness of parental questions or concerns. Lack of coordination between students’ school and home environment results in extremely low homework completion rates.
Funding will create the opportunity to make bilingual Amharic-Hebrew speakers periodically available as translators in the Rambam School. This will facilitate more effective communication between parents and educators, resulting in increased parental involvement, improved student performance, and increased teacher awareness of their students’ home environment.
The Project Coordinator will recruit 2 bilingual Amharic-Hebrew speakers from the Tzofim Youth Movement as volunteer translators. They will be at the Rambam School 2 afternoons per week and 1 evening per month, during which times parents, teachers and the principal may schedule meetings. Parents may also walk in during the translators’ afternoon hours to perform general functions with the administrative staff. The principal will present the teaching staff and school curriculum at a “back-to-school night” evening event towards the beginning of the year, which the translators will make accessible to Amharic-speaking parents in the audience. The principal will also take that opportunity to emphasize the positive impact parents can have on their children by supporting school goals at home.
The project will be publicized in coordination with the Netanya Ministry of Absorption and Rambam School. The Project Coordinator will post Amharic and Hebrew signs, including the project’s general purpose, hours and instructions for making appointments, in the Ministry office and all spaces used to carry out Ministry training programs. Amharic-speaking adults within the North Poleg community who are already active in Ministry programs will receive notices of the program for distribution to parents of their acquaintance. Parents will receive these same notices when they enroll their children in Rambam School as well as in all standard mailings from the school, and the school will send monthly reminders of the translators’ hours home with students and mail these same reminders directly to students’ homes.
The project’s goals in its first year include 65% parental attendance at “back-to-school night,” at least two meetings between each student’s parents and any one of his teachers during the school year, and a 50% increase in homework completion among Rambam School students.
Staff and Collaboration
Responsible staff will include a Project Coordinator to oversee the project and a professional Amharic-Hebrew translator, recruited from the Netanya courthouse and hired on a consultancy basis, to train and support the volunteer translators. The project’s steering committee will include Rambam School administrators and teachers, Ministry of Absorption officials, and a representative of the Tzofim Youth Group.
Evaluation and Sustainability
The Project Coordinator will consider parents, students, educators and translators in evaluating the project. He or she will measure parental attendance at the “back-to-school night” event, and provide the volunteer translators with satisfaction surveys to give parents after they’ve attended their second meeting. Using records from the previous year, the Project Coordinator will also track any increase in parent-teacher and parent-principal meetings in the first year of the project’s operation. If no such records exist, the Project Coordinator will use the goal of two parent-teacher meetings per student as another measure of success. Using the previous year’s grade books, the Project Coordinator will calculate any increase in homework completion among students returning to Rambam School. Translators, teachers and the principal will keep meetings logs to evaluate successful meetings and obstacles encountered.
Organizers have solicited funding from the Ministry of Absorption, and they will seek future support from the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. Cincinnati is one of Netanya’s active sister cities in America.