(TBILISI) -- UNICEF issued a strong rebuke to a statement by Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili who recently said state kindergartens may no longer remain free of charge for families with higher incomes.
UNICEF Says State Kindergartens Should Be Free of Charge
By Tea Mariamidze
Wednesday, December 27
“Inequities persist with significantly lower attendance rates for children living in rural areas, children living in poverty, children with disabilities and ethnic minority children,” the statement reads.
The organization expressed concern that the introduction of payments at kindergartens would further widen the gap between children from wealthier urban families and those from poor rural families.
UNICEF has historically supported early education for what it calls “its equalizing potential”, adding that fees create the opposite dynamic.
“After introducing charges, public pre-schools are open to market forces that favor wealthier sections of society and exclude the poor,” said UNICEF in a prepared statement.
UNICEF noted that the Law on Early and Preschool Education and Care guarantees free, universal and accessible preschool education for every child, and introduces national standards and the preschool authorization system.
On December 22, PM Kvirikashvili told the lawmakers that there is a very high demand on state kindergartens and the state cannot afford to allocate the necessary fees from the budget.
The initiative was followed by harsh criticism from the society and parents of children, who reminded the government that free of charge state kindergartens was one of the main pre-election promises of the ruling Georgian Dream party, which has been in power since 2012.