UNICEF, Government of Armenia promote education for minority children
YEREVAN, September 1, 2006 – UNICEF and the Ministry of Education & Sciences of Armenia joined their efforts on Friday in promoting education for ethnic minority groups living in Armenia.
“The right to quality basic education is fundamental right of all children in all communities,” UNICEF Representative Sheldon Yett said in a ceremony marking the start of a new academic year in a Kurdish-populated community of Alagyaz, 50km north of Armenia’s capital. “Investing in the education of all its citizens is one of the best investments a country can make. It is the lever with which children can lift themselves out of poverty and participate fully in their communities.”
The UNICEF Representative noted that the Ministry of Education & Sciences has promoted basic education for minority groups through the distribution of textbooks in minority languages and through the training of teachers in minority schools.
The event organized jointly with the Ministry of Education & Sciences is part of the “Welcome, School!” project under which UNICEF provided school and recreation supplies to schools in Yezidi and Kurdish communities of Aragatsotn region.
A UNICEF-commissioned survey on the status of education among ethnic minority groups of Armenia showed that children from vulnerable communities, including those from ethnic minority groups, face serious problems related to education. The school attendance rates for these children are significantly lower than the national average with a higher level of drop out after grade 8.
“In many instances, this situation is linked to attitudes and beliefs that prevail in those communities,” Yett said, adding that “parents sometimes prefer that their child works to help earn family income rather than allow the child to stay in the classroom.”
Girls are particularly vulnerable in that situation. The survey revealed that the majority of those children who do not continue studies after grade 8 are girls.
Traditional attitudes held by the minority groups towards education is, however, not the only barrier. UNICEF and the Government of Armenia understand that for parents to be willing to send their children to school, the latter must have proper conditions and well-trained teaching staff, Yett said. “Unfortunately, many schools today lack basic supplies and equipment as well as professional teachers. Many children, particularly those in rural areas, have to share textbooks which also are often outdated and worn out.”
The UNICEF Representative emphasized that “getting all children into school and giving them appropriate quality education today will pay enormous dividends for the next generation.”
Jointly with the Armenian Government, UNICEF is trying to address these problems through the provision of school supplies in vulnerable communities, training teachers, promoting interactive teaching methods at schools and actively participating in education and child welfare reform.
“The Government of Armenia has always paid special attention to the needs of ethnic minority groups. With support from international organizations such as UNICEF, the Ministry of Education & Sciences has been trying to find solutions to education problems of minority children. We have been able to meet some of our commitments already this year by funding the reconstruction of schools in three minority-populated communities,” Deputy Minister of Education & Sciences, Bagrat Yesayan, noted, adding that “the support to minority communities will continue.”
By promoting education and encouraging every child to attend school, UNICEF is trying to accelerate progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, that Armenia together with the rest of international community pledged to meet by 2015.
UNICEF established its presence in Armenia in 1994. UNICEF is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to advocate for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to meet their full potential.
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