Anamaria Bragvadze, 23, Tbilisi
„I am a final year student and study sociology at the Department of Social and Political Sciences of Tbilisi State University. At the same time, I work as a bartender. I have worked as a bartender just for three months, I have two jobs. Before that I worked in many different places. Basically I have worked in the service sphere and in the informal sector. This has caused me some problems, because when you are formally employed, you can get a certificate, for example, when you need to reschedule your examination because of your job. However, you cannot get this certificate unless you are officially employed. So universities are not tailored to students’ needs and they do not take into consideration that many students work unofficially. For example, two days ago I worked for the whole night and I had an exam on the following day. It is impossible to be productive when you stand all night long, then get home at seven or eight o’clock in the morning, after which you have to write a test at 10 o’clock!
Many people are aware of the current social condition and social status of state university students. I know some students that work because it is considered a good style to work. Of course, this is good – you grow up and you would like to be less dependent on parents, have your own pocket money and gain more independence from your family. But more often students work because they do not have any alternative option.
Even though I have a part-time job and basically work at night, it is still difficult not to miss lectures and be productive at the same time, which is rather important. When you face general problems students face, it is doubly challenging to resolve them. For example, you might not have enough time to be at the university for the whole day and run from one administration room to another because you are late for work. So you will not be able to select subjects and the administration will blame you for not being able to select some compulsory or desirable subject. If you have some problem during the process of studying and try to explain the problem to lecturers, most of them make you feel that this is just your problem. I have to explain all the time that I work because I have to pay my tuition fees. I am rather lucky because I have an apartment in Tbilisi, I do not pay utilities and my family helps me cover many other expenses but there are students, who do not have this support. It is really important for them to work and make ends meet from month to month. Student work to study but quite often they do not have enough time to study, this is a rather big problem for working students.
The tuition fee in Georgia is GEL 2250. If we take into consideration a medium income and real remuneration of students, which is GEL 300-500 a month, they cannot afford it. Moreover, except for tuition fees, students need money for food, pocket money and sometimes even rent money. Therefore many students have to abandon their studies, i.e. they are not able to pursue their master’s degree even though they wish to.
If you work as a bartender you have to communicate with people all the time. Some customer may sit at the bar, drink and talk to you, it may be a woman or man, it does not matter. I see from my personal experience and through observing different bartenders (both female and male), that the attitude towards girls and boys are different. For example, when a female customer talks to a male bartender, she may be flirting and courting with him, but this never acquires annoying forms. But things are different with a female bartender. Customers ask her a telephone number and address; ask questions like, “Do you have a boyfriend?!” If you have one, then they ask, “Is he here?” And if it turns out that he is not there than they ask, “Why does he let such a beautiful girl come here alone? etc. Some of them have even tried for several times to catch me with their hand or come rather closely. They think that if you are a girl, it is your duty to do „Whatever I want you to do“. The attitude of the management and co-employees is rather important in this case. Some acquaintances and friends of mine who work in the sphere have told me, “If we told this to the manager or the guard they would not believe and say, „It was probably you who provoked him“, „Why are you wearing a low-neck dress? Wear something different…“etc. For this reason, many people have had to quit their job. I am rather lucky in this respect, it is sufficient to give a sign to the guard or co-employees and the problem is resolved at both places, where I work.
As for student activities, I have been involved in them since I enrolled at the university. We have had to discuss the same problems every year, including quality of studying, students with suspended status, students’ social problems etc. It was not my aim to be called a “leftist” or “feminist”. I have just talked based on my personal experience and based on the experience of people around me.
Some people do not believe but it is fact that students in this country have their status suspended because they cannot pay tuition fees. This is a big problem, it does not make sense to demand a quality education unless young people from the lower classes will have access to education! If education is a privilege available for only the elite, I will not fight for that. It is important to me that people should have right to education. However, this problem has been always ignored like all other social problems in this country. When students come out to talk about workers’ problems, some people think this is funny! I do not really think that I am talking about other’s problems because I am from the same layer of society. Similarly, students’ problems should be workers’ concern as well because their children and family members study at universities. Therefore, these questions are always interrelated with each other.
I would like to say one more thing. There is hardly any space free from sexism around us today. The same applies to women activities. Woman always do twice as much work as men do to be noticed. We have to speak louder to be heard etc. Similarly, female feminist activists should be more prudent than males. For example, if you are sensitive, you may be labeled as hysteric; unlike men, women will be necessarily held accountable for their private life etc. But you have to fight every day to make things change.“