Teachers at the Tzilqar Public School in Aragatzotn Marz might not get paid their December wages.
It seems that the school and the Tzilqar Municipality are in debt to VTB Bank.
In 2007, community residents took out loans at VTB. The school and municipality stood as guarantors. Now that residents can’t pay, the bank is going after the school and the municipality in the courts.
So far, the bank has been able to get the courts to seize 2 million AMD in school deposits to pay off the debt of two local residents. The cases of the other ten are still in the courts.
School Principal Arman Hovhannisyan figures that if VTB gets its way, an additional 20 million will be seized. This is more than the entire yearly salary of the entire teaching staff.
Naturally, the teachers are anxious, especially with the holidays just around the corner.
The teachers have requested assistance from the RA Prosecutor’s Office, but so far there has been no response.
Principal Hovhannisyan sees only one resolution to the matter – a helping hand from the state government. He argues that if the government can loan the school at least 2 million, the teachers will be paid and the school will repay the loan down the road.
The government doesn’t appear interested in the scheme. In the meantime, there are other rural communities in Aragatzotn Marz in the same financial bind.
If one goes to the Datalex court report website, there are many legal suits brought by VTB against residents of Aragatzotn.
The municipalities of Berqarat and Gegharot also signed as loan guarantors for their residents and for those in Tzilqar as well.
In these cases, residents have been obligated by the courts to hand over their property to the bank.
Berqarat Mayor Merouzhan Minasyan says that many borrowers figured they could pay off their debt by cultivating 8-10 hectares of land. Poor weather and other factors have made this impossible for many.
Mayor Minasyan says that if residents aren’t able to pay, his village’s school will face problems just like in Tzilqar.
“We sign the loan guarantor contracts but failed to learn just how much had been lent out. There was no monitoring,” Minasyan confesses.
Even prior to this looming financial threat, Berqarat has seen many residents seek seasonal work outside the country.
320 men in the village of 266 households have left to find employment abroad.
Two of the mayor’s three sons have left as well.
“Do you think we are doing well here?” the mayor rhetorically asked.