Teachers and students of a village school in central Armenia boycotted classes on Monday in protest against the provincial governor’s decision to sack its principal.
Governor Gabriel Gyozalian, who is affiliated with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), has also appointed a young woman apparently related to him as acting director of the secondary school of Aghtsk, a historic village located in his Aragatsotn province.
The decisions seem to have angered many local residents. Dozens of them joined the school’s students and teaching personnel in rallying outside the school building to demand that the sacked principal, Harutiun Sukiasian, be reinstated. Some protesters carried posters saying “Sukiasian is our director.”
“We all respect him and don’t want him to be fired,” said one teacher. “This may be a partisan thing: the new governor is a Dashnak,” claimed another.
Sukiasian, who is affiliated with the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), also condemned his dismissal. “I have appealed to President Serzh Sarkisian’s staff to look into the matter and restore justice,” he said.
Some villagers claimed that Gyozalian has installed his cronies as well as Dashnaktsutyun members in various positions since being appointed governor in March as part of his party’s power-sharing deal with Sarkisian.
The new, acting principal, Sona Muradian, is Gyozalian’s goddaughter. The young woman refused to comment on the controversy.
Gyozalian, meanwhile, denied the allegations of nepotism and partisanship, saying that he simply wants to rejuvenate the school management. He also blamed the sacked principal for the protest.
“He has had six or seven of his relatives work in the school and the school is not in good shape,” the governor told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) after meeting with the village mayor and an Armenian parliamentarian born in Aghtsk to discuss the protest.
The protesters also argued that Muradian does not have a special government license needed for running the school on a permanent basis. Gyozalian countered, however, that she will receive one before a panel of representatives of the school’s teachers, students’ parents and the provincial administration meets to elect the new principal.