On April 13-14, 2011, a field trip to the Georgian region of Samstkhe-Javakheti took me to the Georgian-Armenian village of Tsinubani where Jana Kowalova, EVS volunteer at Caritas Georgia, assists the school teachers during the English language class on Wednesdays. On April 14, school kids celebrated the “Day of the Georgian Language”, which was for me the opportunity to visit the school and meet with the 3 pupils of the 12th class.
Even though Thursday, April 14, turned out to be a nice and sunny day, the road to Tsinubani was all muddy because of the melting snow which was left from the previous days. The marshrutka driver gave us a ride from Akhaltsikhe to the centre of the village, and then, we tried to reach the school without slipping on the stones of the countryside road…
On that day, the Armenian school of the village celebrated the day of the Georgian “mother tongue”, which is referred to as “deda ena” in Georgian (deda=mother, ena=language). The 4th class had prepared a show during which a few pupils performed Georgian songs and poems for their schoolmates as well as for a few local guests. As the celebration of the Georgian language was made impossible during Soviet times, the school community of Tsibulani insists on highlighting its significance today.
The population of Tsinubani is mainly composed of ethnic Armenians, and therefore the village has an Armenian school; ethnic Armenians are compactly settled in the region of Samstkhe-Javakheti which borders both Armenia and Turkey. In villages as well in the towns of Akhatsikhe or Akhalkalaki, the Armenian and Russian languages are widely spoken in addition to Georgian. Sometimes, however, the Armenian-speaking communities do not speak Georgian very well. Georgian thus remains a foreign language that kids learn at school.
Taguhi, Hasmik and Grigor are the only three pupils of the 12th class of Tsinubani school. Next year, the three of them will eventually go to university into town, which will surely be a major change in their lives. Hasmik wants to study journalism in Yerevan, whereas Grigor and Taguhi intend to move to Tbilisi, to study respectively law, and English and tourism. To study in Tbilisi, the latter two will first have to take a foundation year to improve their command of the Georgian language.
If the old school of Tsinubani once hosted 500 pupils, there are only 60 studying there in 2011. Ana-Ida, one of the school teachers, does not have good hopes for the future. It is uneasy to say what it holds in store for Tsinubani’s community life. As many others in the countryside, her school may well be condemned, some day, to close its doors for good. This questions, of course, the perspectives of the local youth.
Many thanks to Jana Kowalova from the Czech Republic for her great guidance in Samstkhe-Javakheti, and to Hasmik, Taguhi, Grigor, Ana-Ida and the whole school community for their warm welcome in Tsinubani –