The Reuven Surkis Program for Students from The Ethiopian Community
62% of Ethiopians are on welfare and, as of the end of 2011, only 0.7% of students in Israel were Ethiopian immigrants, which is significantly less than their percent in the population. Their high-school dropout rate is disproportionally high. But these statistics are changing – for over fifteen years, the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) - Lev Academic Center has been assisting young Ethiopian men and women to better their lives by enabling them to earn an academic degree and either become career professionals in the IDF or find careers in the high-tech and business fields.
JCT assists these students even before their enrolment in degree programs by providing a preparatory year program (Mechina), which includes intensive study of Mathematics, English and Physics in order to improve their knowledge in these subjects and allow them to enter JCT as regular degree students. The Mechina also provides one-on-one tutoring, individual counseling to ensure each student’s emotional well-being and academic progress, and an enrichment program, which includes educational trips around Israel and special Shabbat weekend activities.
Many of the potential students do not have adequate matriculation scores to directly enter JCT’s academic programs and for that reason JCT offers a one year pre-academic preparatory (Mechina) program. Proactive outreach by staff at JCT has also enabled us to attract more Ethiopian women to our programs. Although they were hesitant at first to embark on technology and science degrees, now more and more Ethiopian women are also applying to JCT.
Recent findings reveal that only 50% of students from the Ethiopian community participating in preparatory programs continue on to further academic studies. However, at JCT, over 70% of students continue to their first year of studies and nearly all of those successfully earn their degrees. Those who do not continue receive assistance in finding academic or non-academic programs elsewhere.
After successfully finishing the Mechina and entering the regular degree program, JCT continues to provide these students with as much tutorial support as necessary. For the first years of their studies it is as close as possible to a one-on-one basis. Many of the students are themselves tutored by 4th-year students in the program. Employing students from the program as tutors has several major benefits; these students serve as role models for the new ones, they are grateful to be able to help their friends, it reinforces what they themselves have learned and it provides them with the opportunity to repay their gratitude for the support they have received.
JCT is the first of Israel’s leading institutions of higher education to take up the challenge of supporting the successful integration of Ethiopian immigrants with their EFE (Education for Ethiopians) program. 158 have already graduated, 97% having managed to find employment (87% in their professional fields), and 100 students are currently studying at JCT. We are helping the Ethiopian community integrate and achieve success.
Our program is evaluated by academic results, drop-out rate and employment on graduation. The number of students in the program continues to grow and the drop-out rate is less than 5%. We consider it a great achievement that 87% of our graduates hold positions in their fields and 100% of those employed (97% of our graduates) are employed in engineering related fields. Another mark of the success of this program is that 55 graduates have obtained their masters degrees, either in the MBA or MSc degree. 100% of our graduates who hold masters' degrees are employed in their fields.
In recent years, the financial support, which JCT receives from the Jewish Agency and the Government of Israel, has been severely reduced. JCT helps in funding tuition, food and lodging, instructors, tutors and the program director in addition to costs that include books, educational supplies and transportation costs for the students who live outside Jerusalem.
Tuition at JCT varies according to the need of the student – basic tuition is 11,000 NIS per year and many (but not all) of these students receive some government support for this purpose. In addition to tuition, students must pay for English courses and Judaic studies as well as dormitories and food, which are not included under government stipends. Students from such backgrounds are incapable of financing these expenses and JCT has undertaken to provide support for these students.
Although JCT has limited available accommodations for its students, we nevertheless provide free dormitory accommodations to all the students in the EFE program. Additional support provides extra tutoring and living stipends, which are all part of a comprehensive program that includes counseling, enrichment programs and Ethiopian religious and cultural events such as the celebration of the Sigd Holiday. The cost to JCT per student in the Education for Ethiopians program is between $5,000 and $7,500 per year.
The importance of this program, not only to the individual students but to their families and communities, is paramount. We employ everything in our power in order to assist them in their difficult endeavor but we cannot succeed alone. We need your help to continue - these students depend on full scholarship support, mentoring and extra tuition in order to succeed. We invite you to be a part of their success.