By Rashid Shirinov
The Armenian government’s program on optimization of schools has already become a headache for both schoolchildren and authorities.
Parents in the Kotayk village of Pyunik continue to keep their children from attending school, to protest a government decision that will close the school in two months and have the pupils attend classes in the neighboring village of Artavaz.
Pyunik residents say that closing the village school means closing the village.
Residents have appealed to Armenia’s president, prime minister and the education minister, asking them to void the controversial decision.
They questioned the government’s finding that education quality levels would jump if the 44 pupils at the Pyunik school were to attend classes at the neighboring Artavaz school with 70 pupils.
Residents are fearful that the closing of the school will result in people leaving Pyunik. They also point out that children will have to travel three kilometers to the school in Artavaz, often on foot, due to the lack of reliable transportation. They say the road would be difficult during the harsh winters.
As the calls by the parents have fallen on deaf ears, they were forced to come to Yerevan to be heard of.
The children held banners saying “Do not spare money for education!", "The village should have its school" and "Please reconsider the decision."
“On the initiative of our Governor, it was decided to merge the two schools. The Governor did not deign to come to us to learn what's going on,” mother of one of the students told Hetq.am. The vice-governor advised the parents to appeal to higher authorities.
In Yerevan, a state official tried to comfort the demonstrators saying that the decision on optimization was postponed for six months.
However, Armenians know that the authorities often give empty promises in order to calm the population. What is more, the official said that the decision was just postponed. Thus, the merging of the schools will still be implemented in half a year.
The confrontation of Armenian population and the government over the merge of schools is related to one of the main social problems of today’s Armenia – immigration. Thousands of Armenians leaving the country take their children with themselves, and as a result, the country’s schools get empty.
The data of the National Statistical Service show that about 35,000 schoolchildren left Armenia over the past six years. As a result, many classes and sometimes schools are getting closed in the country.
The National Center of Educational Technologies under Armenia’s Education and Science Ministry reports that as many as 6,562 students left the country in 2015-2016, and this figure reached 7,117 in this academic.
Education Expert Serob Khachatryan, criticizing the program, said that the schools optimization should be observed in the context of President Serzh Sargsyan’s statement that there is a goal to increase the number of population of Armenia by 2040.
“If the population will be up to 4 million, why to close the schools?” Khachatryan said.
Rashid Shirinov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @RashidShirinov
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