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Ex-Education Minister Intends to Study in US, Continue Teaching

By Tea Mariamidze
Wednesday, November 15
(TBILISI) -- Georgia’s former Education Minister, Alexander Jejelava, intends to continue studies in the United States after he was replaced by a newly-named Minister Mikheil Chkhenkeli on Monday.

Jejelava believes that his main mistake in office was that he was not bold enough to make radical changes to the education system.

“My replacement was conditioned by a joint decision of the Prime Minister, as well as my colleagues and myself. We agreed that it would be better for the education system and reforms [to bring in a replacement],” said Jejelava.

“I think that frequent changes in the Ministry is damaging to the system, but I do hope that the new Minister will do his best to make the transformation process less traumatic,” he added.

After the cabinet reshuffle, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili offered Jejelava the chance to move into the diplomatic field, but the latter said he prefers to stay in the education sphere.

“I taught at several universities and worked in the non-governmental sector as well. I am going to continue down this road and also I plan to do my Ph. D in the US,” said Jejelava.

Before departing the Education Ministry, ex-Minister of Education also gave several recommendations to his successor.

“The main challenges in the system are the lack of qualified teachers in rural and minority schools and also the small number of students in vocational schools,” Jejelava told Chkhenkeli.

Jejelava’s signature “Free Apple Campaign,” launched at schools in October will conclude in December.

The campaign envisages distributing free apples once a week to Tbilisi’s schools that have more than 1,000 pupils.

“The project is quite complicated and expensive but we want pupils to eat apples during breaks,” Jejelava said in October.

His initiative drew a sharp rebuke from Georgia’s opposition parties due to the program’s GEL 90,000 price tag.

The opposition claimed the government needed to spend state money on more important national projects instead of distributing free apples to selected schools in the nation’s capital.

Jejelava also came under fire from both critics and allies in the government for claiming that Georgian old fairy-tales encourage children to commit acts of violence. He later courted an additional amount of controversy for telling schools to stop spending time on reading and writing and to focus more on physical and free time activities.