This article was originally published by Ifact.ge
In December 2017, fluency in the Georgian language became mandatory for public school directors [in Georgia]. After candidates pass a test, and an interview, the Ministry of Education assigns them to a school. That local school board made up of parents, teachers and students then decides whether to accept the candidate.
The Kvemo Kartli region located just southeast of the capital of Tbilisi currently has 19 of its 250 schools with no directors. Twelve of these schools teach almost everything in the Azeri language spoken by many Kvemo Kartli residents. Ethnic Azeri candidates for school directors are often teachers who don’t speak Georgian well enough to qualify. Georgian-speaking candidates are often turned down by the local school board.
The Ministry of Education told iFact.ge that they are not yet ready to announce the next school director competition.
Sona Ismayilova has taught Georgian language for 25 years and works in Kesalo village near Gardabani. She says there are 1,100 children at her school and only one assistant director.
“There is no director,” she said. "(Assistant director) Mammad Khiyalov can’t do it alone. We asked him if we could hold a meeting and change the team that monitors teachers. He says we can change it when a new director is appointed."
“He had to divide lesson hours for 80-90 teachers. How good a system can that be?”
Ismayilova does believe the director must be fluent in Georgian, even if most students at this school don’t understand it. Mandatory Georgian classes are scheduled five days a week for 45 minutes. But many Azeri students speak little or no Georgian outside the classroom.
“They won’t translate everything for a school director at (ministry) meetings,” Ismayilova said. “Then the director won’t be able to communicate the correct information back to the school.”
Nazarlo village is 10 minutes away from Kesalo. Elkhan Abdullayev, 68, resigned as director in September because of some health issues, and now works only as a geography teacher. The director’s position is vacant. The school has 580 students and 55 teachers.
“When I was director, the assistant director was handling all issues concerning lessons, and I took care of everything else,” Abdullayev said. “When there is no director, everyone acts indifferently about their work and nobody controls teachers or students.”
Abdullayev doesn’t think fluency in the Georgian language is vital. “I don’t know Georgian really well,” he admits. “I can understand some.”
”But it is mostly an Azerbaijan language school. If a director who doesn’t know Azerbaijani language comes, how will she or he act around the children. What kind of contact will there be with the teachers?”
Nubar Bayramova, 27, who teaches Georgian language to Azeri students at the Nazarlo school, says she doesn’t know who to talk to when she has problems. “When there is only an assistant director, that person has to do everything for both teachers and students.”
Giorgi Tchautchidze, 42, was turned down by the Kesalo school board in 2015 after the Ministry of Education sent him as their candidate for director.
“I received a certificate that I passed the tests,” he said. “I chose three schools, and one of them was Kesalo. But the school board didn’t choose me. They chose another candidate who was not Georgian and was teaching at a nearby school.”
“When I was sent to Kesalo school, I knew that I had little chance. No one on the board voted for me. In general, ethnic schools may just not want a Georgian director.” Tchautchidze now teaches at a Russian-language school in Marneuli. The Kesalo director has since left that position.
Tamar Mosiashvili, an education expert at the NGO Civic Development Institute, says a director is responsible for hiring, organizing class schedules, and representing the school in relations with outside parties.
“Appointing school directors is complicated,” she said, adding that it often doesn’t matter if a candidate has a close relationship with the school.
“The Ministry of Education sends the candidates wherever they want. They may send 2-3 candidates to a school board. If they don’t choose one, the ministry will send new candidates.”
Mosiashvili says directors must know Georgian.
“It is bad when a school staff does not want an ethnic Georgian director,” she said. “I do know some schools where ethnic minorities want a Georgian director. In fact, those schools have developed better.
“A director who can’t speak Georgian is not going to be able to develop and improve a school.”