Residents in the border villages in Armenia’s Gegharkouniq Province are leaving in greater numbers every year.
Simple proof of this is the decreasing enrollment of area schools. Families just don’t see a future for themselves in the province. Local school principals have voiced their concerns that if the trends continue this section of Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan will be empty of Armenians altogether.
Artash Khloyan, principal of the Kakhakn village high school, told Hetq that in 1996 the school had 117 students. Today, that number has dropped to 40. So has the number of grades; from ten to six.
“Those who have the means are leaving the village. They are going to other parts of the country or overseas. I fought in the battle to liberate Kelbajar in 1993 and am trying the best I can to keep people here. It’s a bad situation and the same is happening in all the villages,” said Khloyan.
When I asked what the reason for the exodus was, Khloyan advised me to ask those in government instead.
“I’d rather not say because it would be critical of those in power. The government isn’t treating rural residents in the correct manner. Village folk feel neglected and alone with their concerns. The government must do much more to assist those in the villages. Right now, the government is more concerned with building high-rise buildings in Yerevan. What we now have is the capital, Yerevan, and a 150 kilometer stretch of border full of empty communities.”
Khloyan said the absenteeism is a problem because students don’t have proper clothes or shoes to wear to school. Many families can’t even pay for textbooks.
The Kakhakn school is in pretty bad shape. The roof is constantly leaking when it rains. The windows are so old that it’s tough to keep the classrooms warm in winter. There is no running water in the school.
Nelli Vardanyan, principal of the neighboring Arpounq village high school, says that the number of students in her school is also dropping. The village practically sits on the border with Azerbaijan.
The school has an enrollment of 104, but a number of the grades have been merged.
The principal says that while entire families aren’t leaving the village, the number of seasonal workers heading for Russia and elsewhere is on the rise. Most families say that they can’t afford to raise more than two kids.
The village has no cultural club for youngsters to gather and pass the time of day.