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06 10 05 - “But if it go on like this, in seven or eight years, there won't be any Armenian schools in Tbilisi.”
(From A.Meliokiam USA)[October 2, 2006]<BR>
At the end of the 20 the century there were twenty Armenian schools in Georgia's capital. Today only two remain – Schools 104 and 95. There are also Armenian departments in six Russian schools, though they have few students.

“The Armenian schools were closed because they didn't have any students. Many Armenians, just like in Soviet times, choose to give their children a Russian education. Unfortunately, the Russianization of Armenians continues to this day. Since last year there has been a slight trend towards sending children to Georgian schools, but that is still extremely rare. Most of the students and teachers in Tbilisi's Russian schools are Armenian, “ says Karine Manukyan, principal of School 104, which is located in Havlabar, an Armenian neighborhood.
The number of students has steadily declined in this school, which many believe is Tbilisi's finest. This year there were only three first graders, and 153 students overall. School 95 has 100 students. Yet there are 350,000 Armenians living in Tbilisi.
“Parents no longer give any preference to Armenian schools, since state exams in Georgia are only in Georgian, and of course, a student who graduates from an Armenian school does not have sufficient knowledge of the Georgian language, but studying in Yerevan creates major financial difficulties, “ said Karine Hovhannisyan, a teacher at School 104.
Only a few graduates of the school go to Armenia each year for their higher education: In 2004 there were five, in 2005 two, and in 2006 three.
The director of the school does not agree that Georgian state exams present a problem. “I can confidently say that students from Armenian schools have a better grasp of Georgian than students from Russian schools. Starting from first grade we study Georgian language and literature. The other subjects are in Armenian.”

“Our students organized events in the museum of the Georgian writer Baratashvili in Georgian, and nobody thought that they were Armenian children,” noted the school librarian, Ofelya Nersesova, who graduated from School 104 and has worked there for fifty years.
“I talk with the parents and ask them to send their children to an Armenian school, but they say to me, “Mrs. Ofik, what will happen if we do that out of respect for you? After school, where will the child go to study? There is one place - Orbeliani Pedagogical University's Armenian and Georgian literature department, but they only take ten students. And on the deploma they write, ‘Teacher of Georgian Language and Literature,'” explains Ofelya Nersesova, who was recently honored as the best school librarian in Georgia.

“Of course, it would be good if my child went to a Georgian school, since we live in Georgia, but I sent him to a Russian school, because we'll probably leave. Also, the curriculum in Russian schools is always stronger, and they learn Georgian anyway, from living in Tbilisi, and some liberal arts subjects like history are taught in Georgian in this school, “ explained Liana, whose son is in first grade at the Russian School 98 this year.
“I really tried, but my daughter and her husband sent my grandson to a Russian school,” said Yura Pohradyan, a former teacher at School 104.
School 98 opened in the 1970's; it was renamed the Sayat Nova School in 2001. Compared to the aging facilities of School 104, which finally made it into the government's renovation program this year (during our visit the school was under renovation and school was postponed till October 2) the Russian school is in excellent condition, with two buildings and a spacious gym.
“No other school in Georgia has facilities like this,” said Principal Susanna Shoshiashvili-Gasparyan. Two-and-a-half years ago School 98 started teaching Armenian language starting from 7 th grade. “The move was initiated by former principal Misha Tadevosyan. Starting from 7 th grade, an Armenian language course is offered as an elective along with French and German language courses. In the past, Armenian was an extracurricular activity, done after school. Now it is part of the class schedule and the Ministry of Education does not have any objections since 90% of students are from Armenian families,” Soshiashvili-Gasparyan explained.
Only 100 of the school's 530 students chose Armenian in 7 th grade.
“If our children decide to study Armenian in the 7 th grade, let them do so. But there are no prospects for Armenian education here. We'll teach them Armenian history ourselves,” said Armenian parents waiting for their children outside the Russian school.
Students at School 98 learn the Armenian alphabet in 7 th grade. “The Armenian embassy provided us with 7 th grade textbooks, but we asked them to give us elementary textbooks since our students in 7 th grade have barely started to read and write,” the principal said.

The Armenian schools in Georgia not only teach in Armenian, but also try to connect Armenian children to Armenian culture. School 104 has a dance group and a literary club, Vernatun, which organizes meetings with writers from Armenia. And since May 2006, students and teachers have worked together to publish a magazine called Vank.
We have connections with school in Armenia schools, and our curriculum is very close to theirs. The list of subjects is approved by the Georgian government, but the textbooks are brought from Armenia. Our teachers are trained in Armenia, “ said Karine Manukyan.
“School is the only place where children have the opportunity to speak Armenian and learn about Armenian culture. Everywhere else, in the workplace or even at home, they speak Georgian. My son's wife is Georgian and she speaks Georgian with their son, but I will certainly send my grandson to my school,” said Ofelya Nersesova. “But if it go on like this, in seven or eight years, there won't be any Armenian schools in Tbilisi.”
Liana Sayadyan, Tigran Baghdasaryan


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