The messenger logo

The News in Brief

Monday, January 30
Gali Residents Protest Crossing Point Closure

Residents of Abkhazia’s predominantly ethnic Georgian-populated Gali district organized a protest rally on January 25 against the planned closure of two crossing points along the Enguri River – at Nabakevi-Khurcha and MeoreOtobaia-Orsantia – between Gali and its adjoining Zugdidi district of the Samegrelo region.

The de-facto Abkhaz government decided to close two out of four crossing points along the administrative boundary line (ABL) by the end of January at its session on December 28.

Video footage broadcasted by Rustavi 2 TV on January 27 shows a group of approximately 200 residents of Nabakevi and surrounding villages - predomiantly women and children predominantly - rallying along the road and waving placards with messages against the crossing point’s closure.

“We would like to tell the [Georgian] government that we are in Abkhazia and we would like to keep our houses for our children. We are being pressured. Georgia should pay attention to us, so that the road is not closed for these children,” an unnamed local resident stated in Georgian.

Residents of Nabakevi and surrounding villages travel to the nearby villages in neighboringZugdidi district through Nabakevi-Khurcha crossing point for schooling, medical services and commercial activities. The alternative route, running through the main crossing point over the Enguri River, close to village Chuburkhinji, would lengthen the journey for locals by at least 30 kilometers.

“Today, approximately 120 residents of Gali district of Abkhazia rallied against the closure of crossing points on the Abkhaz-Georgian border. Residents of the village of Nabakevi blocked the road leading to the main crossing point,” TemurNadaraia, the head of the de facto administration of Gali district, said in his statement on January 26.

The administration noted that the chief of Gali District State Security Service TemurShengelia and local police officers went to the protest site and added that the demonstrators ended protest after “explanatory conversation.”

According to the same report, the head of the de-facto administration of Gali said that the residents of villages in southern parts of the district could reach the main crossing point “without obstacles.” He also added that there are “certain forces, linked to illegal cross-border business,” who are “provoking protests.”

The U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi expressed “deep concern” over the proposed closing following Ambassador Ian Kelly’s visit to the two ABL crossings on January 26.

Bologna inclusion lifted quality of Georgia’s education system

Georgia has bolstered the quality of its higher education and research, thanks to its inclusion in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), the authors of a new report argue.

By joining the EHEA, popularly referred to as the Bologna process,Georgia improved the legal framework and quality of its higher education system and brought in a three-level degree system with BAs, MAs and PhDs.

Since 2005, Georgia has developed a framework of qualifications for higher education, implemented quality assurance standards and a credit system. Another change is that Georgian students have been able to participate in exchange programs and get higher education abroad.

The process launched with the Bologna Declaration in 1999 is one of the main voluntary processes at a European level, and is currently implemented in 48 countries which make up the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).

Georgia joined the Bologna process in 2005. On the one hand, this was the core of the reforms in higher education; however, this was an expression of the western orientation of the country following the peaceful Rose Revolution in 2003.

Over the course of a decade of reforms, education has also been a contentious issue which has uncovered different views about how the reforms are implemented, most recently in a student protest at Tbilisi State University in the spring of 2016, when education reform was one of the main demands.

The report presented on Wednesday by the Social Science Centre and Open Society Foundation offers an overall optimistic assessment of how Georgia’s higher learning institutions have been improved the last decade.

The collapse of the Soviet Union led Georgia into two secessionist wars and a civil war in the early 1990s. Amid poor economic, political and social conditions in the country, the education system also collapsed. Joining the Bologna process may also be seen in light of this period of post-Soviet instability, as it addressed problems that had emerged during years of mismanagement.

The report concludes that despite significant achievements, the Georgian higher education system still has problems to deal with, such as a lack of qualified lecturers, as well as a poor studying environment and a lack of vocation education and access to high quality studying material.

The authors are now offering their recommendations based on the report’s findings to the Ministry of Education and Science the, National Center for Quality Assurance, higher education institutions and other relevant agencies.
(DF watch)