Villages in Georgia’s mountains are being deserted. A story of 15-year-old girl
She has to walk 2kilometers to get to school. The classes start at 9 a.m., but Khatia has to leave the house at 8 a.m., so as to get there for the first-graders’ demo lesson in time.
First she has to walk down the path to the tamped earth road, then again along the path that runs through the field. The weather is rainy, everything has been washed out, so she has had to put on rubber galoshes overhernice boots.
Khatia Gobadze studies in the 9th grade, in Tabakhmela village, in mountainous Ajara region, Georgia. She is very happy that there are as many as 3 students in the 1st grade. At the same time, she regrets that she herself will graduate the school without a ceremonial last bell and a farewell party, for many years she’s been the only student in her class.
“I’m fond of studying. I like biology most of all. And the teachers are good. It’s a pity that I’m the only student in the class. If I have had friends, I would have been more enthusiastic and motivated to study.
She has long black hair, but she doesn’t like to have it braided. Khatia, 15, dreams of becoming a doctor, though she knows that herfamily is facing financial problems and her parents could hardly afford paying her tuition fee at the university.
She also fears that her parents may decide to marry her off early. Then she will have to become a housewife like many other young ladies in the village, and she will surely have to forget about a doctor’s career.
I should study very well, she says. “Maybe then, when I grow up,I’ll be able to earnwell and will decide myown fate independently.
Tabakhmela village is located at an altitude of 1,050 meters above the sea level. It is under the jurisdiction of Khulo municipality. This region is known for its severe winters. Sometimes the snow covers up all the roads, cutting off the village from the civilization.
But the summer period doesn’t offer much prospects for the youth either.
Entertainment here is just of local nature. Young guys gatherat the ‘patch’ in the village center and play cards. Well, one can also sit here with a mobile phone, reading the Facebook posts.
There is only one store in the village. Khatia says, if lucky, one can buy there a pair of nice tights, brought from Batumi.
For all the aforesaid reasons, young people try to leave at the earliest opportunity and continue their studies in DabaKhulo village school, close to Batumi, or,at best,in Batumi.
There are the total of 11 students and 14 teachers, who are dealing with their education, in a one-storey wooden school. OtarGobadze, the school principal, cannot be calm and unemotional when he looks at the pictures and tables, leftby the students on the classroom walls many years ago.
He says, the school was initially designed for 60 students. Then the migration began, people left for the places where life was better: part of them moved toTsalka, others – to Batumi.
“Migration has posed problems to both, the village and the school. Today, we haveper 1 studentin the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 9th grades. I’ve spent all of my life with the children in this school, whereas now I could watch once lively and active village being deserted.
Marina Tavartkiladze is also a residentofTabakhmela, but she lives closer to the village center than Khatia’s family. Marina says, people have left their village due to unemployment, as well as because theirliving conditions were equal to those of the 17thcentury. She has three children, but she lives alone. All three of them have moved to Batumi and she doesn’t see them quite often. She says, it’s good that there are mobile phones.
“The youth don’t need beautiful mountains and clean air, says Marina. “They need cinema, disco clubs and brightly lit streets. And they certainlyneed jobs.
Anzor Bolkvadze is the Georgian Parliament member. He wasn’t born and raised inTabakhmela, but rather in neighboring village, in Khulodistrict. He represents the highland regions in Parliament.
“At least the situation in Ajarais better than in other mountainous regions of Georgia. A new law on assistance to the mountainous regions provides for many benefits, for example, teachers will receive considerably increased salaries. All the aforesaid should help those, who have stayed in the mountains, and will serve as an incentive for those, who left, to return back, says the MP.
Emine Abuladze has been teaching Georgian language and literature in Tabakhmelaschoolfor 15 years already. Her family members moved to Batumi long time ago. But she couldn’t give up onthe school and the people who have become so dear to her. So, now she lives in Tabakhmelaalone.
“I’ve been teaching in this school since its opening. Our children are very active, and since there are few of them in each class, we actually work with them individually, checking their knowledge on daily basis. The disadvantage is that our students aren’t accustomed to work in groups with their peers, which mayresult incommunication problems.
According to Edward Mikeladze, thehead of Khuloresource center, a lack of students has been reported in11 out of 49 public schools throughout the district. Most of the students, 315, study in DabaKhulo public school.
Edward Mikeladzesays, the dynamics in the district is really deplorable.
“Under the legislation, a school will operate if there is at least one student there, says Mikeladze. “The schools have been put in order and provided with necessary infrastructure almost everywhere inthe district. But the entire families are leaving the village, some of them due to social conditions, others for some other reasons. There are just elderly people left almost everywhere.
Khatiais coming from school on foot, though it’s already getting dark. There is a lengthy, snowy winter ahead, so the villagers have to harvest potatoes in time. Therefore,Khatiaisn’t goinghome, but is rather heading directlyto her family’s potato field, to help her parents, who’ve been working there since morning. KhatiaGobadze’sfamily harvests about 20 tons of potatoes every year.