35 percent of the population of the Georgian city Zugdidi are internally displaced from the bordering conflict zone of Abkhazia. Many of the students at the GLC therefore have a challenging economic and social background.
“Democracy is a chance to see a human personality with all his or her deeply hidden abilities and help him or her develop them for a good cause”, Summer Academy participant Tea Lashkhia, said.
Tea Lashkhia (GLC teacher), Ivetta Rodonaia (NGO Association ATINATI representative), and Gia Khasia (School Principle of GLC) participated at the Summer Academy in Poland in 2011. There they initiated a project aimed at the development of democracy at school.
Back from the Academy they presented their ideas to the rest of the school staff. Together they developed a school wide action plan for 2011-2012. During the planning it became evident to everyone that they needed to strengthen the cooperation between administration, teachers, students and parents.
This realization was the basis for the idea to create a school wide internet forum as a social network for exchange of opinions and decision-makers. In order to secure wide ownership to the project they launched a competition for the students in September. 12th form student Mikhail Kvaraya won the competition and later presented his ideas to the entire school.
Barrier less communication
“To open a barrier less free communication is the basis for development of democratic society”, Mikhail Kvaraya, noted.
The school also had a competition identifying and rewarding the most active user of the forum which was won by vice-chairman of the student council, Dmitry Kharebava and Inga Kekalia, the head of the teaching department.
The creation of the social forum was initially not well received by everybody. In particular, the senior students were skeptical as they feared it might infringe upon their personal freedom. The preparation and organizing of a New Years show, however, calmed these fears. The planning involved everyone from administration and teachers to students and their parents and active use of the new social forum was instrumental in making that happen. Around 100 people participated at the event which featured performances, quizzes and competitions.
Another and more difficult obstacle to overcome was the accessibility of the forum for students; and even more so for teachers and parents. A survey revealed a need to improve the digital skills of the older generation. The school’s partner organization ATINATI thus organized a basic training course for those who wished to improve their skills. A problem which still persists is that some of the students and parents have a strong desire to use the forum but can’t do so because they don’t have a computer at home.
All in all, however, the project is considered a success. The forum has been used to revise the internal school regulations, to carry out the election campaign for the school’s self governance and to organize events like the New Years show. Both parents and students have become more active and engaged in the activities and running of the school. The forum is also used to organize volunteering and civil activity in the city.
“The forum has also become a sort of catalyst for the identification of personal qualities and resources of students, for example, some of the students who were considered the most passive and spiritless have created the internet forum design”.
The GLC has shared their experiences with other schools in the region and established partnership with another public school.
“One of the key factors for success has been the support from the organizers of the Summer Academy. After each report we received specific questions which enabled us to move in the right direction”, said Tea Lashkhia.