UNICEF’s third International Conference on Child Rights focused on teaching of the State language and the education of ethnic minorities
The Conference was held as part of the Child Rights Week hosted by UNICEF in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region, on 19-22 September
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AKHALTSIKHE, Georgia, 20-21 September 2022 – The third International Conference dedicated to the incorporation of child rights into university educational programmes and curricula took place in Akhaltsikhe and was organized by UNICEF, in partnership with Samtskhe-Javakheti State University and the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia.
The two-day conference, held as part of Child Rights Week organized by UNICEF in the Samtskhe- Javakheti region,brought together state officials from national and local governments, members of Parliament, rectors of seven State Universities of Georgia, ambassadors and representatives of 16 countries and international organizations, professors and students, international and national child rights and education experts, and school teachers and administrators.
At the opening of the conference, the participants were welcomed by Tamar Makharashvili, First Deputy Minister of Education and Science; David Sergeenko, Deputy Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia; Tea Akhvlediani, State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality; Phillip Cori, UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia; Sabine Machl, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Georgia; Ghassan Khalil, the UNICEF Representative in Georgia; and the Ambassadors of Bulgaria, Estonia, Hellenic Republic, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland.
The conference provided an avenue for a wide spectrum of child advocates and education specialists to acquire diverse information about the rights of the child and the impact of rights-based teaching and learning approaches in formal and non-formal education. The conference empowered the spirit of future specialists to apply the wealth of received knowledge about child rights into practice through their day-to-day lives and work at home, schools and in their communities.
This year, the special focus of the conference was on teaching the State language and on the education of ethnic minorities, thus ensuring their right to access inclusive, equitable and quality life-long education for their improved participation in social life and engagement in future employment opportunities.
Lack of access to quality learning of the State language has long been an acute problem for the ethnic minority population living in Georgia. According to the national assessment of Georgian as a Second Language conducted by NAEC in 2019, 87 per cent of students in the Azerbaijani sector were beyond the minimum level of language competence. In the case of the Armenian sector, this figure was 60 per cent. As a result, many ethnic minority children in Georgia are prevented from fulfilling their potential, and they are not actively engaged in social, economic and political activities.
The conference sessions included presentations by well-known national and international specialists and teachers, as well as student authors of essays and presentations of school projects. The role of universities in promoting child rights, influencing policy, and bridging the educational divide created by the language barrier was central to the discussions.
The conference also enabled the State universities in Georgia to share their initiatives aimed at incorporating the rights of the child into university B.A. and M.A. programmes for the education of future child rights advocates in the fields of education, law, business, and other disciplines. 15 professors from various State universities of Georgia were awarded with Certificates for successful completion of the professional development programme initiated by UNICEF, thus becoming certified child rights specialists.
The International Conference in Samtskhe-Javakheti was the third annual conference on the incorporation of child rights into university curricula. The first and second conferences were held at Akaki Tsereteli State University, Kutaisi University in 2020, and at the Batumi Shota Rustaveli State University in 2021. These conferences provided platforms for structured exchange among international and national experts on theory, research, policy and practices relating to child rights.
About the Child Rights Week
During the week of 19 September, UNICEF hosted a number of events in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region promoting the rights of the child. The invited ambassadors, as well as the representatives of 16 countries and international organizations, participated in a number of events, met a wide range of participants and engaged in discussions with local young people, educators, medical professionals and religious leaders.
A series of open webinars were organized on topics such as: early childhood development; violence against children and its impact; challenges faced by adolescents; and teaching of the State language and bilingual education. The webinars were led by prominent experts in the fields of child rights, child development and education. Local health professionals participated in the learning sessions, organized by UNICEF, on the importance of routine vaccination. In Akhaltsikhe and Akhalkalaki, a number of training sessions were organized for young people on media literacy, healthy lifestyle and volunteerism. UNICEF also mediated a discussion between the members of youth organizations of Samtskhe-Javakheti and the Mayor of Akhalkalaki. Child rights were the heart of the discussions held between the representatives of UNICEF, ambassadors, and the religious leaders of the Georgian Orthodox Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/georgia/