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Schools defy the war

By Sopho Datishvili
Tuesday, September 16
In spite of the war and the IDPs it has created, most schools in Tbilisi began the new term on September 15, as instructed by the Ministry Of Education. 15 of Tbilisi’s 158 schools are still closed and will be reopened on September 22 or October 15. 2,000 IDPs will be studying in different schools in the capital.

In a number of the reopened schools refugees left the building just before the new school year began. The Messenger interviewed the Deputy Director in charge of educational programmes at School No 128, Nana Nauashvili. She informed us that there had been about 209 IDPs from the villages of Karaleti, Gintsvisi, Megvrekisi and Eredvi residing at the school. All of them had fled from the epicentre of the attack during the war. The IDPs had left the school building by September 3. “Those who left first went to Gori. Of the 74 left, I know some of them are still in Tbilisi,” she said.

The school tried its best to get ready for the new term. Tbilisi City Hall repaired some classrooms. During the repair work the people living in the building were moved around so the work did not create any discomfort for them.

“The IDPs living in our district are now bringing their children to our school. We will express our compassion towards these people and do everything possible to assist them in such difficult times. Our school psychologists will work with the children from the conflict zone. One 15 year-old refugee girl who came to us today for the first time even started crying when I took her into her new class,” Nana Nauashvili added.

Public school No 128 is in Nutsubidze Street, and for the numerous IDPs who live in the Forestry Department building, it is the nearest school to take their children. We interviewed some of them. Mtvarisa Bestaeva, an ethnic Ossetian, lived in the district of Znauri before the shooting started. She left her home without taking anything with her. Now she says that the living conditions that she has found here are unbearable. She isn’t content with the school either. “I brought my two sons here, as I thought it was the nearest and most suitable place for them, but the teacher didn’t even introduce my boy to the class.” Bestaeva says.

School No 51 has also started its new term despite the fact IDPs are still living there. In the halls you meet the women with babies, watching TV with huge interest, waiting for news that can provide relief for them. School No 51 is probably the most popular school in Tbilisi and one of the best equipped in Georgia. Mikheil Saakashvili studied here. At the moment however the school is also the home of 26 mothers and 27 babies, under arrangement with a UNICEF programme, which the Ministry of Education says will last until October 4th.

The IDPs living there say that they feel themselves quite comfortable. “We have all the things we need: food and a place to sleep.” Natia Chulukhadze Papirishvili, a refugee from Achabeti, says. As the Deputy Director told The Messenger, they have some IDP pupils too, but they don’t live in the school building, they are from other temporary dwelling places.

Neither school No 128 nor No 51 will arrange kindergartens on their own premises, as they don’t have enough space for one. But in general the school year has started quite well in both of them.