The teachers of a rundown Armenian school went on a one-day strike on Thursday to demand urgent repairs of its facilities.
The secondary school in Ashtarak, a town 30 kilometers northwest of Yerevan, has two buildings constructed in Soviet times. One of them is dilapidated and disused, while the other is too small to adequately accommodate the school’s 600 students.
The protesting teachers complained of the grave lack of space and decaying facilities when they spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“We have remodeled the school’s boiler house and turned it into a classroom,” said one of the teachers, Armen Grigorian. “We have turned the chess and handicrafts rooms into regular classrooms.”
“The school has no library at the moment. We have closed and turned it into a classroom,” he added.
The overcrowding also means that the school has no canteen and gymnasium. It is also in urgent need of new furniture.
“We are forced to take such a step,” explained another teacher, Ruzanna Khachatrian. “How long should we keep waiting?”
The protesting staff argued that they have repeatedly appealed to Armenia’s government, Ministry of Education as well as the administration of the surrounding Aragatsotn province for help. “Would government officials let their children go to such a school?” one of them asked as she showed its dilapidated toilets.
According to the teachers, the Ashtarak-based provincial governor, Gabriel Gyozalian, promised last year that government-funded repairs will start in 2017. There are still no signs of that happening anytime soon.
Gyozalian could not say when the authorities will start refurbishing the school. “Many of our schools are in such a condition,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “The state needs to have money to repair them. But you can’t solve such problems with such protests.”
The teachers threatened more strike action, however, if their demands are not met.
Last fall, students of the school in an Aragatsotn village boycotted classes to protest against similarly poor conditions. The government in Yerevan scrambled to allocate funds for its urgent reconstruction.