Despite the fact that according to the accounting of Lori Regional Administration about 100 million AMD is necessary annually for solving the transportation of schoolchildren and teachers in the marz, only 278 thousand AMD is provided by the state budget for this purpose. The amount of the money has not changed during the last ten years and, in spite of real needs, the regional administration did not even try to demand more money from the Ministry of Finance when they submitted the annual budget. So the provided money is distributed among the four schools of the marz to solve the transportation problem of schoolchildren attending those schools only.

“If during the last ten years the amount of the money provided to the majority of marzes with such needs has not changed, has not increased, it means this is not by chance,” said Ashot Papanyan, a Chief Specialist of Educational Division of Department of Education, Sports and Culture of Lori Regional Administration Staff. He added that however, the administration will try to get some solutions to this problem in the budget of 2017.

While state agencies try to clarify what is the reason for under-funding – the regional administration did not demand more money or the Ministry of Finance did not provide it, schoolchildren and teachers of different communities of the marz walk for some kilometers from village to village or a town every day to get education. There are communities in Lori and other marzes of Armenia where there are no schools and in some communities there are only basic schools.

“A lot of children have to walk for 15-20 kilometers and more every day to get to school and back home. In the best case they take transport means that happen to be on the way by the will of God,” Oleg Durgaryan announced, Head of the Community Mobilization and Support Center during the discussion on “Transportation Problems of Schoolchildren and Teachers in Lori Marz” organized by the Media Center in the office of Vanadzor-based NGO Center on March 4.

As a result of the research conducted by “Center of Community Unity and Support” NGO some months before it was found out that numerous children who live in one community in Lori marz have a problem to reach another community to get education. “We studied also the state policy. There is some policy but it is too much indifferent towards Lori Marz. There are some projects that to some extent regulate the transporting issues of schoolchildren and teachers, provide reimbursement,” he said adding that money is not allocated equally to marzes to cover such needs.  

In the framework of “Transportation Rreimbursement of Schoolchildren and Teachers” state project, 25 million AMD was allocated to Syunik Marz and 278 thousand AMD to Lori Marz in the year of 2015.

According to studies conducted by Lori Regional Administration and presented by Ashot Papanyan during the discussion, by January 1, 2016, there are 669 schoolchildren in the marz who need transportation, 460 are 1-9th grade students while 209 schoolchildren are 10-12th students. The number of transported teachers is 629. According to him, the amount of 278.100 AMD provided to Lori Marz is allocated among 4 communities of the marz that solve the transportation issue of schoolchildren. But the local authorities are trying to erase the lack of finance with funding from community budgets and school budgets. “The amount allocated annually is not enough but communities and schools support to solve the problem, according to their statute they have the right to allocate money from their budget for this purpose,” he said adding that there was no case in the marz that a child did not get education because of transportation.  

Difficulties connected with transportation cause problems also in terms of realization of schoolchildren’ rights to education. “After graduating from the basic school schoolchildren often do not continue their education in high school because of transportation problems,” noticed participant Arevahat Petrosyan, Lawyer at “Spitak Helsinki Group” human rights organisation.

The speaker continued noting that there is only one high school in Spitak Community where only one pupil studies from rural communities. “The reason is clear for all of us. They do not go to high school because of transport and they cannot realize their educational right freely”, she said.

Besides schoolchildren, the transportation issue of teachers is also rather complicated, Ashkhen Babayan, Head of “Spitak Helsinki Group” NGO, mentioned. 

“Our studies showed that there are teachers who are quite unaware about the state budget provided for transportation. Though many teachers travel from other communities to teach, they are unaware of their rights, they are not informed at schools. Salaries of teachers are very low and they cannot spend that money on transport to go to work every day. There are teachers who rejected job offers”, she informed adding that their organisation published information booklets with the slogan “Teacher, protect your rights!” and distributed in different communities. 

Armen Martirosyan, a leading specialist of Administrative Control Division of RA Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development, informed that the Ministry knows about the issue and it is at the center of attention. “We think there is an opportunity to make some overview when submitting a corresponding financial application for forming the budget of the next year. The application of regional administrations to the Ministry of Finance will make the studies more substantial. Whether corresponding funding will be provided by the Ministry or not, it is another question,” he concluded.

Arshaluys Mghdesyan, Coordinator-Editor, Media Center  

To contact the author please send an email to arshaluismghdesyan@pjc.am.

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