Tamta Beridze, 19, Batumi

„This year, I enrolled in the Department of International Relations and moved to Tbilisi to study. In my last years at school in Batumi, I contacted some non-governmental organizations, such as Batumi Youth House, the Leader’s Club, the Freedom Center, and started to work as a volunteer. My protest has always been directed at the ineffectiveness of the school and the overall educational system. Unfortunately, a single school subject of Civil Education is not enough to inform young people of their rights properly. While volunteering, I attended many trainings about gender equality, and protection of ethnic and religious minority rights, after which I visited schools, especially in the mountainous regions of Adjara, to offer trainings to schoolchildren. They would be shy in the beginning but the more information I gave them, the more they opened up and wanted to participate in the training. This experience has taught me that only an educated and duly informed individual can be truly free and equal.

Unfortunately, the current education system feeds stereotypes more than any other institution. In my school years, I realized that the teachers, who were supposed to open my mind, kept their own minds closed to new ideas. I think the teachers’ awareness needs to be improved so that they can be trusted with preaching others. I have often noticed that the teachers did not completely understand the topics they discussed with us. One teacher, who was criticizing racism, said the word “negro” a few times. I immediately pointed it out to her/him and we argued. Another thing that I resent is putting up Christian Orthodox icons in the classrooms, while among the children, especially in Adjara, there may be many Muslims who could feel mistreated. By the way, religious bulling goes unchecked in most schools of Adjara.

Probably because I am gender sensitive, I have often challenged the educational program in school. For example, in the textbooks of the Georgian Literature, men are usually stronger and their opinions are more respected. The teachers share these values too. I was going to a physics & math specialized school and, in spite of the fact that my grades in technical subjects were better than the grades of most boys, the teachers would choose boys to send to different extra curriculum trainings. I think this approach is very unfair and needs to be changed. However, I also think that the change must start at the school level. Once the children learn and share the principles of equality, as grown-ups they will question the violence and abuse so rampant in our society, and the life will be better for us all.”