Schools tested for racism in Georgia
Rusa Amirejibi, the girl’s mother, describes this incident as follows: at one of the lessons, 15-year old Mimi quarreled with her classmate, who called out to her: ‘Go away to your Africa, there is no place for you in the society!’
What has outraged Rusa most about this story is not the incident itself, but rather the school’s subsequent reaction. Instead of suppressing such a gaffe and explaining to the teenager what the racism is, both, the teacher and the director, ‘lashed out at Mimi’. When her mother came, they also ran at her with accusations about her academic progress and behavior, not directly related to the incident.
‘They did not even mention Saba (the classmate, whom she had a quarrel with), they defended him, they patted him on his head!’ – Rusa Amirejibi wrote on her Facebook profile.
The school has denied accusations also through the Facebook: here one can find several versions of how the developments have been presented, each of which resolves itself to the fact that there was a quarrel between the children and that the instigator has offered an apology.
The Audit and Monitoring Service of the Ministry of Education is inquiring into the case. Education Minister, Tamar Sanikidze, has made a statement, saying if the fact of racial discrimination is confirmed, she will personally make sure that ‘maximum sanctions’ be imposed on the school administration. It seems, however, that the ministry, itself, has not decided yet on what the sanctions could be.
Film by the Eyewitness Studio. Tbilisi, 2010
For Georgia, this is the first public consideration of an incident involving racial discrimination. It is virtually impossible to make assumptions about how many such cases actually occur. And that’s not just because this issue is too tabooed, but also because Georgia has absolutely no statistics on its citizens’ race.
The only figure that we have managed to fish out, is an unofficial and very rough index of the total number of child of the non-Caucasian race in Georgian schools: “approximately 90 people’ – the Education Ministry responded to our query. It is noteworthy, that the Ministry believes that keeping relevant statistics would be “also a discrimination’.
Public Defender’s Office is the agency dealing with discrimination and equality issued in Georgia. Maka Stevenson, Head of the Equality Department of the Public Defender’s Office, says, the cases of discrimination in schools are mostly relate to religion. The victims, as a rule, keep silent about these facts, refusing to officially proceed with the matter for the fear their children will have to go through the worse things.
Since November last year, the department received only two applications related to the violation of one rights on religious grounds. These statements have not been made by the victims themselves, but rather by the NGOs.
In May 2014, Georgia passed the Law ‘On the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination.’
That’s exactly the law that Rusa Amirejibi pins hopes on:
‘I will take advantage of this law, because someone should be the first. I know, I’m not the only parent in this country, raising a dark-skin child, let others join me! ‘