Citizens Petition Local Governments for Preschool Education
Access to preschool care and education should be provided to all residents in Georgia, according to Georgian legislation. However, this legal mandate is rarely enforced in the regions of Georgia, particularly in the mountainous and ethnic minority areas. For example, more than 5,000 children are currently excluded from the preschool education system in the Tsalka, Bolnisi, and Dmanisi municipalities. Majority of residents of these municipalities are ethnic minorities, though none of the existing kindergartens are located in minority-populated villages (with one exception in Tsalka’s village Kizil-Kilisa, which has 26 children).
In order to address this problem and gain general public attention to the issue, the Center for Civic Activities, along with online media portal Mtis Ambebi (Mountain News) launched an awareness-raising and advocacy campaign with support from the USAID Civil Society Engagement Program.
In September and October, Mtis Ambebi representatives canvassed more than 30 villages of Tsalka, Bolnisi, Dmanisi, Akhalkalaki, Ninotsminda, Sachkhere and Tkibuli to inform residents about their rights and educate them on citizen engagement mechanisms that could be used to advocate for a solution to this problem. As a result, enough signatures have already been collected to petition the local sakrebulo (local legislative body) in Tkibuli and demand functioning preschool education institutions in the region. Signatures are also being collected for similar petitions in villages in Bolnisi, Dmanisi, and Akhalkalaki.
Public information requests were made in 33 municipalities to investigate the practices related to handling citizen petitions. The collected information confirms that in some municipalities, citizens have never used a petitioning mechanism and some sakrebulos do not have clear procedures for initiating a petition. To set a precedent for future initiatives, the Civic Activities Center plans to submit citizen petitions in these municipalities and consequently force local municipalities to improve their systemic flaws.
The project also held a two-day training for activists from the target regions on organizing petitions and using other civic engagement mechanisms. Mtis Ambebi has created multimedia materials to help raise wider awareness around the project, including an online article offering detailed information on the availability of kindergartens in Tsalka, Bolnisi, and Dmanisi.