Helping marginalized communities in Georgia’s Pankisi Valley
Pankisi Valley faces many challenges, including poverty, poor access to education and services.
Pankisi Valley faces many challenges, including poverty, poor access to education and services. To better understand these challenges and the needs of local children and youth, UNICEF went on its first exploratory mission to the region in July.
“We found a warm and welcoming reception in Pankisi as we discussed children’s rights and education,” said UNICEF Representative Ghassan Khalil. He and other UNICEF professionals sat down for discussions with key people in Pankisi, including community elders, local officials, school teachers, parents and activists.
"We found a warm and welcoming reception in Pankisi as we discussed children’s rights and education." - Ghassan Khalil
Poor access to education is a major concern for locals. “I would say that we are in an education deadlock,” said Khaso Khangoshvili, a member of council of elders. “We are getting out of it, little by little, and I believe that your initiative to come here will help us,” he told UNICEF.
UNICEF team went back with a better understanding of the region and a determination to follow up with assistance. UNICEF returned to Pankisi in October to deliver education materials and supplies.
“We delivered computers, projectors and network devices to the school,” said Ghassan Khalil as he visited 1 Public School in Duisi, the biggest village in Pankisi. “Children should have access to computers and internet to learn and develop,” he said.
"Children should have access to computers and internet to learn and develop." - Ghassan Khalil
The aid delivered to Pankisi included educational materials and toys for kindergartens; computer supplies for schools; board games and books for local youth center.
“Children here have never seen these many toys and books,” said Bela Mutoshvili, principal of a kindergarten in the village of Jokolo. “I’m sure both the children and the parents will be amazed to see all of this.”
Together with local authorities, UNICEF opened a new, children-friendly space at the Legal Aid Office in Duisi and also spoke to students about children’s rights. “Young generation is going to lead this country and this is really going to help,” said Guga Bekuridze, a student from a school in Kvarlistkhali village.
"Young generation is going to lead this country and this is really going to help." - Guga Bekuridze
UNICEF also visited families that had little-to-no access to internet, a particularly serious issue at a time when global pandemic makes Georgia increasingly reliant on distance learning. “We’ve seen in this family that seven children are connecting to online education on one phone which makes impossible to receive quality education. We will advocate to ensure every child have access to internet,” said Khalil during a visit to the Turqoshvili family in the village of Omalo.
For UNICEF Georgia this is just a beginning of its continued involvement in Pankisi. Promotion of child rights’ education and community discussions in the region will be one of the directions that the organization is planning to develop.
Local community welcomed UNICEF to the valley and said they look forward to working together to address children’s needs. “We are glad that there is an interest in Pankisi’s children,” said Iza Bekauri, director of Kakheti Regional Development Center. “We are very happy that UNICEF came to Pankisi Valley.”