Opinion: integration into the national educational system is the way out for them, not a disaster" />

Georgian schools in Abkhazia: what to do

Opinion: integration into the national educational system is the way out for them, not a disaster

As of lately the Russian language has been gradually pushing the Georgian out of the schools in the Gal district – the trend, immensely annoying the Georgian political establishment. The latter keeps on appealing to the international organizations, demanding to put an end to the “discriminatory practices.

There is little difference, though, between what is happening in the Gal schools and the methods (even more intense) used by the Georgian authorities in the Armenian and Azerbaijani schools in Akhakalaki and Marneuli respectively. There it is presented as “the introduction of the unified educational standard, in Abkhazia – as discrimination and abuse of human rights.

The officials in Tbilisi would no doubt gladly depict it as “violence in the manner of Stalin and Beria, but avoid such strong words for obvious reasons. The Abkhazians, not the Georgians still shudder at the memories of what has been done to the Abkhazian schools under Stalin and Beria, and the methods used – when the Georgian language was overnight introduced for all subjects. The generation of parents was strictly forbidden even to speak Abkhazian at school, to say nothing of learning.

It is these painful historic memories that prevent the Abkhazian authorities from reforming the Gal schools more energetically. The process is slow and sparing, despite the Georgian media allegations.

For instance, some schools in the lower zone of the Gal district still teach in Georgian, using the programs developed in Tbilisi. The lessons of Russian or Abkhazian can be found in the schedule only occasionally.

Introducing the “Abkhazian standards in all Gal schools will take as long, as a walk to Berlin. The education ministry claims, that in 2-3 years all grades will be taught in Russian look like wishful thinking. At present rate the reform will take about ten years. The plan lacks financing and human resources.

But even if the reform is completed, it poses no threat to such subjects as Georgian language and literature.

In contrast to the Stalin times, when the closing down of the Abkhazian schools served the only purpose of forced assimilation of the Abkhaz population, the present reform in the Gal schools aims to integrate the local residents into the common Abkhazian space. It may sound as a paradox, but this is their chance to preserve their identity on the Abkhazian territory.

To let the Gal schools stay where they are now would mean, that in twenty years most of them will have to close down – there will nobody to study there.

Georgian is the only language most of the young people in Gal speak. They will not have much choice besides Georgia, when it comes down to university. He or she may come back after the university, but what is there to do in Gal? The Georgian diploma is not valid in Abkhazia. Teachers and doctors have a slight chance for employment with no guarantees, though.

But a lawyer, an engineer or an economist do not stand a chance in Abkhazia, even in the gal district. What is there to do then? To look for a job in Georgia and come back home until the parents are still alive.

Nodar, an acquaintance of mine from Gal, a cab driver, is a father of three. All three kids went to university in Tbilisi and stayed there with the families, having found jobs and acquired some property. The only son of his brother Soso did the same – stayed in Tbilisi after the university.

While the Georgian politicians protest the forced russification of  Gal, the local residents – knowing neither Abkhazian, nor Russian – quietly leave for Georgia to learn and to stay.

The radical nationalists would say, that no reform at all is needed in Gal schools. Strangely enough such an attitude would suit all, likely to be approved by the Georgian politicians and to win support in Geneva or New York.

But such an approach would leave Gal without young people in 20 years. In case the perspective looks unsuitable, the difficult educational reform in the region should not be obstructed.

The opinions expressed in this article convey the author’s views and terminology and don’t necessarily reflect the position of the editorial staff

More on JAMnews