Preparing Ethiopian Israelies for

Israel 21c on JCT’s Education for Ethiopians program

Advancing Israeli-Ethiopians

The first program for this [the Israeli-Ethiopian] population began in 1998 at the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT), where students complete dual academic and Judaic courses of study.

“Education for Ethiopians” prepares participants for careers in fields such as engineering, computer science, biotech and nursing on JCT’s separate campuses for men and women.

Stuart Hershkowitz, senior adviser to the JCT president, tells ISRAEL21c that 64 women and 74 men are currently enrolled, and mainstreamed into the general student body. About 90 percent must first complete a year-long prep course.

With the help of several foundations, the Jewish Agency and the government, JCT provides them free tuition and board, free tutoring, bus fare to go home on weekends (few live in Jerusalem) and twice monthly get-togethers. A dedicated counselor, Adi Yones, helps them navigate the unfamiliar academic and social landscape.

“Adi is a graduate of the program’s first years and is like a big brother to the students,” says Hershkowitz. “As a result, we have an extremely low dropout rate. And our graduates have a 100% placement record in their chosen professions, which is unusual. They’re very serious students.”

A large percentage of the men in the program have also been selected for Atuda, the Israel Defense Forces’ Academic Reserve, which allows them to complete their degree prior to active service utilizing the skills gained in college.

“This has nothing to do with affirmative action,” Hershkowitz stresses. “There are no breaks for Ethiopians at all. They have to earn Atuda like anyone else, and that is amazing since most are coming from a non-academic family background.”

Yones tells ISRAEL21c that many of the men and women he counsels were raised in great hardship, yet they excel when given proper support. “The program has changed a lot of lives,” he says.

One young man tried five times to get into Atuda and was finally successful after taking the JCT prep course. He ended up switching from computer science to a more demanding major in engineering. Others have found their niche in aerodynamics, physics or electro-optics.

“Even students with a lot of potential cannot do well if they have the worries of putting food on the table,” Yones says. “The financial, social and academic support makes all the difference.”

This article originally appearled on the Israel 21c website. To read the full article, click here