On September 9, the Public Defender of Georgia Nino Lomjaria, working in collaboration with UNICEF, presented a Special Report on the Results of the Monitoring Carried out in Preschool Educational Institutions, assessing the state of children’s rights protection in preschool establishments. Despite improvements from 2014, the report notes dire problems with infrastructure, in teachers’ specialized training and unequal access to preschool.
The report is based on surveying and field observation of 143 preschools located in Tbilisi, and in other Georgian cities, towns, and villages, including in highland regions. The report presents findings in six key areas pertinent to the rights of children: (I) infrastructure, (II) nutrition, (III) access to water, sanitation, and hygiene, (IV) healthcare, (V) violence against children and (VI) human resources.
While the report points to an overall improvement from 2014, when the last monitoring was held, it also lists several ongoing challenges that require “additional effort” from the state and local municipalities if they are to be overcome. These primarily relate to “the infrastructure of preschool institutions, educational items, and arrangement of yards”: overcrowding and a shortage of qualified staff also continue to be a central impediment to a quality preschool environment, according to the report.
The Public Defender’s report goes on to present a list of key findings stemming from the monitoring of preschool establishments.
The report reads that despite efforts from the local municipalities, insufficient space does not allow for the allocation of rooms in a way that meets the needs of children; this problem is particularly dire for preschool establishments located in non-standard buildings.
The situation is also discouraging in schoolyards, as “in the vast majority of kindergartens, yards are not arranged for children’s development, entertainment or relaxation.” Importantly, reads the report, “apart from only a few exceptions, kindergartens are not tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities”, despite the fact that disabled preschool students are enrolled in 34% of monitored kindergartens.
According to the report, a large number of preschool establishments cannot provide basic furniture for bedrooms, classrooms, and dining rooms and fail to arrange toilets according to the number and age of children; access to hot water also continues to be a challenge in some kindergartens. Furthermore, the underprovision of appropriate toys and educational items often drastically limits the scope of activities preschool students can engage in.
The results of the interviews with kindergarten teachers and administration members illuminated that “most of them had not been trained on child abuse issues; they are not properly informed of child abuse referral procedures, which hinders the detection and timely response to cases of violence.”
Finally, the report identifies unequal access to preschool that is linked to geographical location. Only a small fraction of villages provide transportation for preschool students to a nearby preschool. According to the Public Defender’s study, local municipalities avoid responsibility by formally assuming that “one kindergarten in each administrative unit guarantees access to preschool education.”