Going to School is a Luxury for 15-Year-Old Shahen from Armenia’s Kouchak Village
The first winter snow has fallen in Kouchak, a village in Armenia’s Aragatzotn Province.
Shahen, a 15-year-old boy, is a ninth grader in Kouchak who works more than attending school.
He, along with his father and brothers, tend to the village’s animals.
When this reporter visited Kouchak, the villagers hadn’t taken their animals outside due to the snow. Shahen was at home. There are six other children in the Petrosyan family, all adolescents.
Shahen (photo) said that while he likes school, he must focus on work due to the family’s financial situation.
“My peers think differently because their situation is normal. I only attend class once or twice a week. I’m working the rest of the time.
Petros, the eldest son, wants to pursue an army career. Therefore, he regularly attends class. Petros is a year older than Shahen. Petros tends to the animals either before or after school.
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan allocated the house in which the family of nine reside.
Volodya Petrosyan, the father, says that during a Sargsyan election campaign stop in Aparan, he approached Sargsyan and explained that the family had no home. Sargsyan later instructed Sargis Sahakyan, then governor of Aragatzotn, to allocate the family a house.
Now, what primarily concerns Mr. Petrosyan is the amount of debt the family owes. The family is always falling behind in the payments,
Mr. Petrosyan took out a large loan in 2011 to start a sheep farm of his own. He paid 60,000 AMD per sheep. Then the market fell out and he couldn’t cover his expenses. Out of the 50 animals he bought, 30 mysteriously fell ill and died. This just made matters worse.
He had to sell the remaining animals to partially pay off the loan.
Mr. Petrosyan says he still owes around $5,000, adding that the loans also went to purchase hay. The rest was spent on the children.
Volodya and the older children have been tending to the village animals for the past four years. He says he gets 3,000 AMD monthly ($6.30) for grazing one cow. He’s paid the same for slaughtering one animal. The children also chop wood for neighbors.
Grazing the village’s animals is seasonal work. During the winter, Volodya and the boys are unemployed. The family’s only permanent revenue is 70,500 AMD ($148) in social allowances.
During our talk, Volodya’s wife Qnarik mostly remained silent. She only noted that the family didn’t spend much on clothes and depended on handouts from relatives and neighbors.
The family survives on the milk and yoghurt supplied by the three cows it owns. Two were gifted by former Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan. The third was given by the Kochak village mayor.
Photos: Davit Banuchyan