By Nane Atshemian
The schoolchildren in Yerevan will have longer-than-usual winter holidays this season because of the municipal authorities’ failure to properly heat their classrooms, it was announced on Monday.
The holidays will begin on December 26 and last until February 12, the longest winter break in the Yerevan schools in nearly a decade. They usually lasted for a month. Accordingly, the current academic year has been prolonged by two weeks and will end in the middle in June.
According to Armenian Education Ministry regulations, the minimum temperature in classrooms during the winter period must be 20 degrees Celsius. However, authorities have long failed to meet that requirement due to the low efficiency of electrical heaters that serve as the main source of heating in most municipal schools. The problem was particularly acute during last, harsher-than-usual winter, with many schoolchildren catching cold and skipping classes.
“Our resources were put to work at full capacity; the heaters were on all the time; but we still failed to ensure the minimum temperature in many schools,” said Onik Vatian, head of the education department at the Yerevan mayor’s office. He complained that most school buildings are Soviet-era concrete blocks with poor isolation and “too many windows.”
The longer holidays will provide only a partial and temporary solution to a problem stemming from the collapse in the early 1990s of Armenia’s Soviet-era system of central heating. The system is still far from being restored, with the vast majority of Armenians living in urban areas heating their homes with electricity and natural gas.
The authorities have declared the restoration of central heating in public schools a top priority. But only 43 of some 200 schools in Yerevan have their own boiler-houses that allow for proper heating at present.