September is approaching, but the twenty pupils heading back to school in Talvorik, a community in Armenia’s Armavir Province, will be greeted by a building in need of major repair.
The school is located on the outskirts of the village, nearby the municipality. The school building's dilapidated condition is noticeable from a distance.
School Principal Marine Safaryan was not at school when this reporter arrived. Sarafyan refused to talk by phone about the state of the school, since she was afraid the government might decide to close the school and send the children to other communities because of this article.
The building is in poor condition and lacks many necessities. There’s no gym or science labs. The “auditorium” is just a relatively spacious room where chairs are added for people to sit during plays and other events. One can peer into the classrooms through the holes on the walls.
Students and teachers share a bathroom located outside. None of its three entrances has a door.
The school has been operating in this building since the early 1990's.
Talvorik Mayor Kirakos Saghatelyan says the school used to have an enrollment of seventy prior to 2004, but the number has dropped to twenty today. He says the school was partially renovated with the help of a Canadian philanthropist in 2000. This year, the roof of the building has been replaced with the help of the provincial administration, while the municipality has installed water.
The school is up to the ninth grade. After graduating, students are supposed to continue their education either in the Armavir town’s or a neighboring village’s high school. Due to a lack of public transportation in Talvorik, school children and residents alike have a hard time travelling outside their community’s confines.
"Even prehistoric schools had had better conditions. We cannot solve this problem with a budget of 12-13 million drams. Over the years, we have donated some property to the school, but it is not enough. The building needs to be reconstructed,” says Saghatelyan.
The mayor says he has repeatedly appealed to state agencies for the school renovation. Various government officials visited the school. After they noted a lack of funds and that schools in some larger communities were in the same boat, Talvorik residents backed off on the reconstruction issue.
"Children are breathing dust, and the liquid fuel smell is unbearable in the winter. It can lead to very bad consequences," says Saghatelyan.
Municipality employees spoke about cases when children had fainted in the classroom because of the fuel smell.
They say that the school will only be rebuilt when government funds are forthcoming.