Why was the Minister of Education changed in Georgia?
Minister of Education
During large-scale protests in Tbilisi the Minister of Education of Georgia was replaced. Many of those involved in the protests were teenagers and college students.
They boldly challenged the system.
Despite the use of force by police, the protests lasted for three days until the authorities backed down and withdrew the law on foreign agents.
Members of the ruling Georgiam Dream party, including Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili and chairman Irakli Kobakhidze, acknowledged in their speeches that young people were present at the rally and called them “opposition-driven”, “misguided” and even “Satanists”. Kobakhidze said bluntly that the big problem is that young people are being “brainwashed” in universities.
Some believe the main reason for thus changing the Minister of Education is to clamp down on ideology among the youth.
- Gas, water cannons, arrests – Tbilisi against the law “on foreign agents.” Chronology and many photos
- “Nobody needed this law on agents, it could have only come to be at Moscow’s behest” – President of Georgia
- Protests against the “law on foreign agents” continue in Georgia. Opinions of those opposed
On March 20, during the introduction of the new Minister of Education, Prime Minister Garibashvili said that Giorgi Amilakhvari is a successful man who knows the field of education very well:
“Mr. Amilakhvari has been involved in education for many years, he knows the situation at all levels of education very well, and I am sure that he will be a successful Minister of Education and Science.”
What do we know about Giorgi Amilakhvari?
He is a former Member of Parliament. Amilakhvari was one of 78 deputies who supported the Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence in the first reading.
Giorgi Amilakhvari was born in Moscow. He has two children who study in private schools. According to a property declaration, last year he paid 25,000 lari [about $9,500] and $5,900 on education.
Amilakhvari is fond of creature comforts. For example, last year he spent 55,000 lari [about $21.3 thousand] on travel, 40,000 lari [about $15.5,000] on clothes and 14,600 euros on expensive watches. He owns a Mercedes GLE 450 for which he paid 76,000 euros.
His most memorable appearance was last year, when the death of 13-year-old Marita in Vake Park was investigated. “The child should have been under supervision to avoid going near construction,” he said at the time. He was later forced to apologize due to public backlash.
Political scientist Gia Nodia believes that after its concession on the foreign agents bill, the government is now on the offensive. “It seems that these protests have opened their eyes to the fact that universities are their enemies,” Nodia says.
“The political motive for changing the Minister of Education is the decisive participation of students in protests. The government sees youth as a problem, and universities and professors as the cause. Professors are to blame for the fact that young people are so ‘clever;. This is heard in government propaganda.”
Rezo Abkhazava, an education expert, concurs. He analyzed the statements of the new minister Giorgi Amilakhvari and came to the conclusion that the new minister does not know the area entrusted to him very well.
Experts expect the pressure on the education system to increase — for example the creation of problems for private universities, in particular the Free University of Kakha Bendukidze and the Black Sea University of Mikheil Saakashvili’s mother, Julie Alasania.
“It is reasonable to assume that the new minister, who advocates strict discourse, will try to attack the universities in some way. The target will be specific private universities. This is already heard in the propaganda of the authorities,” Gia Nodia believes. These two universities were described by Irakli Kobakhidze, as a place where “youth are recruited” and where they are brainwashed by opposition parties.
Previously state universities were subordinate to the government, Rezo Abkhazava says. He recalls cases when the rector published a strategy for the development of the university, and the very next day quit, citing the fact that he had allegedly exhausted himself in this position.
As for schools and private universities, according to Abkhazava, since the system is centralized the state has a lot of leverage there:
“In the case of schools, the mechanism for appointing directors is completely politicized and controlled. But in order to influence private universities, the state has problems with funding and authorization.”
Experts say the authorities have found a scapegoat in Mikhail Chkhenkeli, the former education minister, who has been accused of instigating student participation in the protests. As a solution, he decided to appoint a stricter manager in the system.
However, the authorities believe that these efforts will be counterproductive.
“We remember what happened when Dmitry Shashkin [Minister of Education of Georgia in 2009-2012] was appointed by the previous government with a tough hand, it had the opposite effect,” Abkhazava says.
He does not expect anything to change in the system:
“Who they had before, they will have again. But it will become more and more difficult to obey him. There are teachers who will talk out about this. After all, both professors and students have shown that they are not going to obey so easily. So these personnel changes will not be effective.”
The opposition believes that the replacement was caused by the protests on March 7-9, which were attended by thousands of students, and is also sure that there will be an increase in repression.
The first signs of this have already appeared. According to the May Student Movement, the police recently went to the student dorm at TSU and collected student information. TSU stated that it was a scheduled check.