(Continued from the previous Monday issue)
Blind people and the problems they face in Georgia
By Esma Gumberidze
Monday, March 31
The only public school for the blind in Georgia
Public school No. 202 for the blind is located in the city center in Tbilisi. Because it's the only specialized school for the blind in the country, it has many students from the regions. The students have the option to either to stay at the school dormitory at night, or go to school on a daily basis.
This school was built more than one-hundred years ago with the help of fund-raising from generous people. The building also has cultural value. However, on October 26, 2013, the Chairman of Department of Inclusion in the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia, Eka Tkibuadze, visited the school and said that the building is old and damaged by an earthquake and its facilities and infrastructure does not meet western standards. She said the cost to repair the building is about 2 million laris. She also said that with this money, a completely new building could be constructed.
As it's closely related to the history of blind people's education and cultural development in Georgia, it was decided that the government would give the old building to the NGO Saqartvelos Usinatlota Kavshiri (the Blind's Union of Georgia) one of the organizations representing and advocating for blind people's interests in Georgia.
It seems that everything is perfectly fine: blind kids will have a brand new, large, contemporary school, and at the same time, the blind community will keep a building that is historically and culturally important. The blind community won't lose the building they feel so strong about! Still, there are plenty of reasons why the school for the blind should remain at the same building where it was first established.
At first, let's make it clear that if the government is going to build a new school for the blind, they certainly won't build it in the city center. To buy a piece of land in the city center that is bigger than one currently belonging to our school, might itself cost almost 2 million laris, so the government will build a new school somewhere in the outskirts, where the land is cheap.
If the school for the blind moved to the outskirts of town, far away from the center of social, cultural and educational life, they will become invisible to the rest of the community.
Moving the school for the blind away from public eye might weaken the social interest and attention the school currently receives. Moving this school to the suburbs will make it hard for them to go to school on a daily basis.
There is less public transportation available that goes to the outskirts, than to the city center. So it might become really expensive, time-consuming and for blind kids to reach their school, unless their families either, by luck or fate, already live near the new school or are able to change their place of residence and move to the outskirts, closer to new school.
Having a school bus or van, which would go around Tbilisi stopping by the homes of the students to pick them up for school and them back home every day wouldn't be a good solution, because Tbilisi is a fairly big city and the students' homes are spread over long distances. So it might take hours to go all around the city to collect all the students.
Esma Gumberidze is a first year student at the Law School at Free University in Tbilisi
(to be continued)