Advocacy for Accessible Preschool Education in Mountainous and Ethnic Minority-Populated Regions of Georgia
Access to preschool care and education should be provided to all residents of Georgia, according to Georgian legislation. However, this legal mandate is rarely enforced in the rural regions of Georgia, particularly in mountainous and ethnic minority areas. To address this issue and bring wider attention to the problem, the Center for Civic Activities, along with online media portal Mtis Ambebi (Mountain News), is currently carrying out an awareness-raising and advocacy campaign with support from the USAID Civil Society Engagement Program.
Over the past few months, Mtis Ambebi representatives have evaluated the current levels of access to preschool education in 32 municipalities in mountainous and ethnic minority-populated areas, met with residents to hear their concerns, and informed locals about citizen engagement mechanisms that could be used to advocate for a solution to this problem. A two-day training was also held for interested activists from the target regions, and Mtis Ambebi journalists produced compelling multimedia stories to help raise wider awareness around the topic.
Following community mobilization efforts, active citizens, with support from Mtis Ambebi, submitted 16 petitions demanding functioning preschool education institutions in the Tsalka, Dmnanisi, Bolnisi, Akhalkalaki, Aspindza, Borjomi, Tkibuli, Chiatura, Sachkhere, Tsageri and Sagarejo municipalities. Several petitions have already been considered by Sakrebulos (local legislative bodies). Tkibuli municipality, for instance, has announced a tender for a kindergarten construction project, and Bolnisi municipality has published a list of villages where kindergartens will be constructed. Some petitions are still under review, and some have been rejected by the local legislative bodies.
Despite refusal, many local activists continue to assert their right to accessible preschool education. For example, following a rejection of their petition to the Dmanisi Sakrebulo, residents appealed the decision in the district court. This marked the first time that citizens took legal action against the government to defend their rights and demand fulfillment of the public petition request.
On January 30, Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili announced a new governmental program which envisions the construction of 330 new kindergartens and the rehabilitation of an existing 555 kindergartens around the country. Mtis Ambebi continues to monitor the situation and provide advocacy support.