By Shakeh Avoyan
As many as 14,000 Armenian children fail to attend school because of extreme poverty, according to the ministry of education. Officials say low-income parents choose to keep their children at home, unable to pay for their clothing and text books.
“The problem is particularly acute in the winter months,” a senior official at the Armenian ministry of social security, Sona Harutiunian, told RFE/RL on Friday. “The lack of money to buy winter clothes means that many kids go to school only during the warm seasons.”
Primary and secondary education is free of charge and mandatory in Armenia. But the education ministry complains that the state lacks administrative and material resources to ensure that all under-18s attend 11-year secondary schools. Approximately 580,000 students are enrolled there. Most of them have to pay for their textbooks.
The latest figures come hot on the heels of a United Nations report on child poverty ranking Armenia among the worst-off Eastern European and former Soviet states. The report issued by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday says most children in Armenia, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan live below the UN poverty line of $2.15 a day. One in seven Armenian, Russian and Ukrainian under-18s suffers from malnutrition, according to the report.
The cash-strapped ministry of social security estimates that more than 190,000 Armenian children live in socially vulnerable households.