Democracy with Soviet Signature
18 November, 2010

At the end of this week pupils of our Capital’s schools will stage another protest rally. They demand from the Authorities to remove those subjects from the examination list, which the Georgian Ministry of Education introduced recently.

The reason is that the pupils were not studying these subjects before. According to them, they and their parents are being threatened and blackmailed in parallel with the protests.
In the Soviet period at the end of 1980s, when I was in my 12th school year, my parents were frequently summoned by the school administration. My mom knew very well the office of the director there. Often they threatened to expel me from the school for the sole reason of my support for national movement and protest rallies raging at the time. By the order of the education the Authorities and the school administration stood on guard along the entire road from our homes to the school. There were threats and harassments, blackmailing of our parents and intimidation to fire them from their jobs. After all, we somehow got over with it and seemingly stepped into the new statehood.
Today, in the period of “democratic lighthouse”, pupils of several 12th grade public schools of Georgian capital are accusing the Authorities of attempting to oppress them as the police summons them to their headquarters and threatens with expulsions. Directors of eight schools signed letters of resignation and left their offices. Apparently they did not act out of their own will. They acknowledge informally that they were forced to sign the letters under the pressure of today’s “democratic education regime”, even if the Ministry of Education has no legal right to fire a school director.
The reason of all these events is very simple: pupils of the last year started to stage rallies against the Authorities demanding deletion of certain subjects from the list of school graduation exams. The pupils state that the subjects which the Ministry of Education has lately introduced, is not being taught in schools. Some of the rally participants who chose to remain unidentified told us that in the police they were threatened with expulsion from schools and even transferring to the so called “school-internats” for poorly performing pupils, unless they stop their protests.
It is noteworthy that this sort of statement comes not just from one or two pupils. Many more say that their parents too are subjected to the threats of dismissals from their jobs. Frightened pupils put on masks before joining the rallies, so that no one from the harassers can identify and harass them and their parents later on.
On top of it, political forces are now engaging themselves in the case. Leaders of Labor Party sent a letter to international children rights organizations asking to pay attention to the violation of children rights in Georgia and exert diplomatic pressure on Georgian Authorities in order to stop continuous harassment and blackmailing of pupils in Tbilisi as soon as possible.
However, Georgian Ministry of Science and Education is not going to cancel the exams in contentious subjects. Instead, they call the ‘twelvers’ to stop going to private teachers to study only four exam subjects and allocate time equally to all exam subjects.
“We will fight against oppression and harassment of schoolchildren. We demand abolition of exams for the last year pupils in 8 subjects. The Government must do it without fail. There are subjects on the list of exams which we have not been taught for several years by now. In other words, these subjects were not present in the program before. There is no enough time left to prepare for exams in these subjects. The problem is not only with the time deficit but also with financial predicaments. Nearly all the pupils face it. That is why we demand annulment of these newly introduced exams,” say the action participants. They are not going to give in and they are ready to stage further protest actions.
It must be noted that the protests reverberated across other schools of the Capital, expanding the geography of the youth unrest. According to the information obtained by the Georgian Journal, public order guards – the MIA academy trained uniformed civil officers introduced by the Education Ministry in the schools – enhanced their vigilance over pupils to prevent anyone of them from joining the protest rallies and transform the process into a massive show of youth power. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education requested all directors of schools to be extremely attentive to their respective pupils.
According to Dimitri Shashkin, Georgian Minister of Education and Science, the Minister has the right to have detailed and precise information about the situation in any public school: “It is a duty of the Education Ministry to react to the breach of rules. If there is any breach of order, the general inspection would undertake corresponding measures in the school concerned.”
Certainly, both Ministry of Education and Science and police dismiss any allegation of mistreating and threatening pupils and their parents. They simply call them all nonsense.
Despite this position of the official governmental structure, the fact holds that directors of several schools resigned. In addition, pupils and parents assert that cases of harassment did take place.
Besides, the information agency InterPressNews spread the information a few days ago that Maia Giorgadze, Director of Public School No. 149 was taken by emergency team to the hospital. As the agency reports, the source of the information is Khatuna Elashvili, Head of Study Department of the same school.
Moreover – recently Patriarch of all Georgia Ilia II asked Education Minister Shashkin to show kindheartedness and allow the resigned directors of protest-ridden schools to return to their positions.


 

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