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Saakashvili pledges to help minorities

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Wednesday, December 24
“Every ethnic group in Georgia should feel that they are representatives of the country,” President Saakashvili stated at a meeting with the staff of news programme National Moambe, which is broadcast in various languages, on December 22.

The President said the Georgian Government should take additional measures to help ethnic minority groups to learn the Georgian language better, something which would make it easier for them to integrate with Georgian society. “We should improve the process of learning the Georgian language for ethnic minorities, or rather, I would say ‘so-called ethnic minorities’ because I don’t accept such a term. I don’t think they are either minorities or should be separated out by ethnicity, but the learning of the Georgian language should be enhanced in Javakheti, Kvemo Kartli and other regions of Georgia where other ethnic group representatives live,” he said.

Saakashvili talked about those teachers who work in areas populated by minority ethnic groups and stated that after consultation with the Education Minister the decision was made to increase the salaries of teachers to GEL 1,000. “This will enable us to attract professionals to teach there,” he said.

Saakashvili said that the Ministry of Education made a very serious mistake in expecting minority ethnic students to pass national entry exams of the same standard as those for native Georgian speakers and promised that this mistake will be rectified soon. “We should give them special privileges to help them pass entry exams. Several hundred representatives of minority ethnic groups should study at Georgian higher educational institutions under the simplified programmes,” he said, adding that the Government should create some incentives for ethnic minorities so that they will stay in Georgia and continue studying in local universities and institutions rather than going to Baku or Yerevan.

At the end of his speech Saakashvili stated that Georgia’s de-occupation will come soon and the unity previously created with various ethnic groups will be decisive. The enemy called us everything they could, but did not call us chauvinists or nationalists or accuse us of pursuing ethnically discriminatory policies. “They failed because such a position is totally unacceptable for the present Georgian authorities, me personally, our nation and our multi-ethnic society,” Saakashvili said. “Our multi-ethnicity is not our weakness; it is Georgia’s greatest wealth and strength,” he added.