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Changes After Advocacy – 25 Million Allocated for the Construction of Kindergartens

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Wednesday, 19 April 2023 11:06 hits 1308 times

The Municipal Development Fund announced contracts for the construction of kindergartens in the villages of Borjomi, Tkibuli, Dmanisi, Tsalka, Sagarejo, and Oni municipalities - Tabatskuri, Mukhura, Irganchai, Amamlo, Lambalo, Trialeti, Kaburi, and Ghar, allotting approximately 25 million GEL for the whole project. Local residents petitioned for the opening of kindergartens at the end of last year.

2 732 000 GEL was allocated from the state budget for the construction of the kindergarten designed for 75 children in Borjomi region’s village Tabatskuri. Some 750 ethnic Armenians live across the Tabatskuri community, which includes the village of Moliti. Tabatskuri is perched just shy of 2000 meters (6561 ft.) above sea level. The nearest kindergarten is located 42 kilometers away in Tsagveri townlet; even if public transportation were available in the first place, an 84-kilometer daily round trip across rugged mountainous serpentine would be a tough ask for preschool kids. That’s why nobody went to kindergarten. Tabatskuri community, with the support of Mountain Stories, petitioned the Borjomi Municipal Council in the December of last year. 

A new 50-child kindergarten will be built in the village Mukhura of the Tkibuli municipality; the contract was valued at 2 582 000 GEL. Mukhura is the only high-mountainous village in the Tkibuli region, with the nearest kindergarten located 10-14 km away, depending on the starting point within the village, in the town of Tkibuli, which adds up to a 20-28 km round trip. Due to severe weather conditions of heavy snow, icy roads, blizzard, and resulting low visibility that occur during the 4-5 months of November through April, the only road connecting Mukhura and Tkibuli becomes challenging and movement is inhibited, if not suspended outright. Currently, up to 40 preschool-aged children reside in Mukhrani.

Up to 7 million GEL has been apportioned for the construction of kindergartens in the Amamlo and Organchai villages of Dmanisi – each with a 125-child capacity. Contract bidding ends on May 11th and the construction deadline has been designated at 16 months from awarding a contract. Populations of both villages petitioned for the opening of kindergartens, prior. Dmanisi city council did not satisfy either petition, which was appealed to the court with the support of Mountain Stories. The lawsuits of civil rights activists Lasha Chkhvimiani and Ruslan Omarov, demanding the opening of kindergartens in Irganchai and Amamlo communities, are pending review in Bolnisi District Court. Activists also pleaded discrimination with the Public Defender of Georgia (Ombudsman). The thing is, just 7 of the 57 villages in Dmanisi municipality have kindergartens. 65% of the regional population here are ethnic Azerbaijanis. Unlike villages predominantly inhabited by ethnic Georgians, there are no kindergartens in any of the “majority-minority” villages. The Public Defender’s office has already started to study the case of probable discrimination.

The situation seems critically one-sided in the Sagarejo municipality as well. The distribution of the 29 kindergartens present in the region is almost entirely skewed toward Georgian-dominated villages. Almost every village has a preschool educational facility, except the ones populated by Ethnic Azerbaijanis, who represent a substantial 33% chunk (about 17 000 people) of the regional population. The only exception among 9 minority villages is Duzagrama, with its sole 30-child kindergarten. The youth of Lambalo village submitted a petition requesting the opening of a kindergarten to the Sagarejo Council in the December of last year. Up to 300 children are devoid of access to preschool education in the village of Lambalo. The Municipal Development Fund announced a contract on April 10th for the construction of a 150-child kindergarten. The estimated cost of the project is 3 800 000 GEL. Bids close on May 10th and the construction are stipulated to be completed within 17 months from the signing of the contract.

3,600,000 GEL has already been assigned for the construction of kindergartens in two villages of Tsalka - Trialeti and Kaburi. Each should be able to accommodate 75 children. Tsalka City Hall claims that the construction of a preschool education institution is also planned in the village of Akhalsheni, whose residents petitioned the council in November of last year. Out of 43 villages of Tsalka municipality, only six have kindergartens. About 53% of the population are ethnic minorities, with 39% being Armenians, and 7% Azerbaijanis and Greeks. There is no kindergarten in any of the villages inhabited by Armenians and Greeks. Pre-school education is available only in one of the villages populated by Armenians - Kizil-Kilisa.

The online publication Mountain Stories and the non-government organization Center of Civic Activities (CCA) implemented the project of promoting access to preschool education in mountainous and ethnic minority villages with the help of the USAID Civil Society Engagement Program.

CCA submitted 16 petitions to the councils of 11 municipalities with the request to open kindergartens and ensure their functioning. In 9 out of 11 municipalities (Akhalkalaki, Tsalka, Dmanisi, Sagarejo, Borjomi, Sachkhere, Chiatura, Tsageri, Aspindza) the petition mechanism was used for the first time, despite the fact that the petition as a form of citizens' participation in self-governance was defined by the Local Self-Government Code 7 years ago.

During a government session near the end of 2022, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili announced the launch of a new governmental program for the construction and rehabilitation of kindergartens.

Mountain Stories is an independent online news publication. The website is managed by the Information Centers Network.