The announcement that eight Georgian schools of Tskhinvali Region will be transferred to Russian-language education is “extremely alarming” and amounts to “ethnic-based discrimination,” Georgia’s State Minister for Reconciliation Ketevan Tsikhelashvili told Civil.ge on August 2.
“This will not only be a violation of the rights of the residents and a step made against their will, but also a deprivation of children of the opportunity to get education, since neither the students nor the teachers know the Russian language,” said Tsikhelashvili.
Drawing parallels with the situation in Gali District of Abkhazia, “where step-by-step Russification was pursued and all schools were transferred to Russian-language instruction,” Tsikhelashvili said “this is a totally unacceptable situation, which does not fit within civil, humane, or reasonable boundaries, particularly since it concerns the rights of children and their future.”
“This is clearly an ethnic-based discrimination, targeted against ethnic Georgians,” the Reconciliation Minister added.
She also stressed that ethnic Georgian residents of the two occupied regions are not allowed to return to their homes, while “those Georgians who do remain in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region have to live in almost unbearable circumstances.”
“Restricting the opportunity to get education is a pressure on them [the remaining Georgians] and an indirect attempt to expel them, which is amplified by other restrictions imposed on them – from the freedom of movement to the property rights,” Tsikhelashvili said.
“The discriminatory policies targeting the ethnic Georgians have reached an unimaginable scale and the situation is worsening day-by-day,” she also noted.
The State Minister then said this issue deserves “very intense international attention and engagement,” so that the conditions for ethnic Georgians in Abkhazia and South Ossetia improve. “This is unacceptable and we will not reconcile with this; we will make the issue the main discussion topic not only at the Geneva International Discussions and the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism meetings,” but also at “all” other formats, she concluded.
The Russian-backed authorities in Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia announced on July 26 that the Georgian language schooling in the region’s ethnic Georgian populated areas would be banned beginning from the 2017/2018 academic year.