Sona Hakobyan: A Teacher’s View
“Our school has become a place that we don’t want to leave”
Sona Hakobyan is a vice-principal and a teacher at Getashen School. When she makes a tour around the school, she truly cannot hide her joy and pride.
“If you had seen our school a while ago, it would be a real “sorry sight.” “Demolished floors, half-ruined walls… There were water buckets everywhere since we had to constantly gather water leaking from the roofs,” Ms. Hakobyan says. “Benefactor Haig Boyadjian’s donation to our school changed everything. That donation, as well as other COAF donors’ assistance, allowed us to fully renovate our school in 2015… Now it has become a place that we don’t want to leave…”
Ms. Hakobyan smilingly demonstrates the new classrooms, the creativity lab, the bright canteen and the tooth-brushing station. “We used to have oil stoves. Since the renovation, we have been using an up-to-date and safe heating system,” Ms. Hakobyan says. “The kids don’t have to sit in the classroom in their overcoats. Their attitude has changed. They have become more compassionate and careful about the school property.”
The tour ends in the school orchard full of apricot trees. “We have 246 students, and each of them is responsible for one apricot tree. At the end of the year, the graduate students “hand the trees over” to newly-enrolled kids… That’s really a touching sight,” Ms. Hakobyan says. “That’s what our school is about – demonstrating care about people, about trees, about the property… And that strive for compassion and care has been greatly bolstered up after the school renovation. The kids and teachers have become extremely “protective” about their school…”
Frits Harutyunyan, A “Best Student’s” View
“Monday is not the hardest day at Getashen School!”
Frits, 16, is considered to be the best student at the Getashen School. He is the head of the student council, a COAF business management course graduate, a COAF newspaper contributor, and a poet. He is also the school’s “acknowledged intellectual”, having taken part in a series of the most popular television quiz and reaching the semi-final stage.
“The school renovation was not just about material changes,” Frits said. “It has caused “ideological” changes as well. Our students used to be too lazy to study properly. They just didn’t care about studying. I can definitely say that Haig Boyadjian’s donation and the COAF support have indirectly contributed to students’ academic progress. Some of them even told me: “We were given nice conditions to study, and now it is our turn to give it back by studying well.” It’s as if those nice conditions impose obligations on us.”
Frits insists the newly-renovated school has greatly affected the moods of schoolchildren and teachers. “I personally wake up with a smile every school day. You just cannot help smiling when you attend such a school. I even caught myself looking forward to Mondays. Monday is not the hardest day at Getashen School!” Frits laughs.
Ellen Margaryan, 6, A Cute Little Girl’s View
“I like everything here”
Ellen is a shiny first-grader that is unaware of such words as “donation” and “assistance.”
However, she is well aware that it is extremely pleasant to have delicious organic school lunch in a bright cafeteria, using nice and colorful tableware.
“I like everything here,” she insists. “The salads, the fruits, the rice… the food here is tastier than at home. My favorite dish is the pilaf. I like everything in my school. The walls, the orchard, the place where we brush our teeth. Our school is the best!”
Getashen is situated in Armavir marz, at 0.5 kilometers from the Turkish border. The village has 853 households with its main occupation being agriculture. Its arable lands occupy 786.4 hectares of land in Ararat valley and the farming is concentrated on such crops as apricots, peaches, vegetables, sunflowers.
In the spring of 2013, Getashen suffered from the disastrous hails that damaged most of the produce in the village. The main institutions operating in the village include the secondary school, the ambulatory, and the post office. The Community Center was damaged in a fire in 1981 and has been in ruins since then. There are no real stores in Getashen– only small kiosks.
The school in Getashen was built in 1979 and was designed to accommodate over 1,000 students. The building includes seven blocks most of which fell into disrepair after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Three of the seven school blocks have been partially renovated before 2014, when COAF started working with the school. In 2015, COAF undertook a full-fledged renovation of the school. The school has 253 students and the first COAF program implemented was the renovation of the cafeteria and brushodrome, as well as the creativity lab.
Some COAF programs in Getashen include after-school clubs, professional orientation, mentorship to student councils, Aflatoun social-financial club, English learning programs, provision of scholarship to university students, social and psychological assistance, psychological and inclusive theater, healthy lifestyle club and seminars, operational support to school cafeterias and brushodromes, capacity building of local health providers,and community health education and screenings.
In addition to infrastructure renovation support and implementation of COAF’s programs described above, in 2015, COAF partnered with Beeline (a telephone operator in Armenia) to implement an Agro-College in Getashen.
The project provided the youth with opportunities to gain basic knowledge of effective agro production, with a particular focus on high-value crop production techniques, land cultivation, efficient irrigation, and marketing tools. A local school greenhouse was built where students received hands-on training on construction and establishment of the greenhouse, choosing vegetables — considering local climate, soil characteristic, and seasonal peculiarities — as well as collecting the harvest and understanding post-harvest management.
The school treats the greenhouse as a practice lab for its “agro-college” after school club and utilizes its harvest — fresh vegetables and fruits — to support school cafeteria operation in providing free lunch for schoolchildren aged 6-12. The direct beneficiaries of the project are 30 students (6-11 grade) involved in the Agro-College, while the secondary ones – 169 primary school students (1-5 grade) of Getashen School, receive free lunch at the school.
Recently, green projects were implemented where the students had to make Christmas trees out of recyclable and sustainable locally sourced materials. This same green and sustainable method was used in the creation of the benches outside of the school as well.