Most of Sachkhere municipality is part of the mountainous region of Georgia, and there are many socially vulnerable families in the local communities. Together with other vulnerable groups, these families have been strongly affected by the COVID-19 crisis. As part of the EU’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Mechanism, the vulnerable families were given access to Internet and online learning. Today, 20 local, socially vulnerable households have received Internet modems, and 50 children who have been unable to attend school for the past seven months can now attend classes online.
Irakli, aged 10, from the village of Korbouli, is one of the children in Sachkhere municipality who could not attend the classes online. Three schoolchildren in his family were suspended from school for a week in February, yet the pandemic extended the holidays to nine months.
Soon schools launched online classes, but Irakli’s family did not have internet at home, so his 6th grader sister Cecilia, 4th grader brother Nodo and himself could not attend the classes.
Their mother says she was very upset when her children could not have their online classes when the pandemic started, but she could do nothing about it:
“I was very nervous, the kids didn’t want to miss their classes, but we did not have internet access. Then the teacher called and told us that the EU supported a project for vulnerable children and they would give us a modem. We applied, and the kids have not missed a single class ever since. They were the happiest to be able to attend the classes. “
Similar to Irakli, many children in the Sachkhere Municipality did not have Internet access. NGO “Virtuosic Classes Association”, the winner of the EU-funded grant competition coordinated by ASB, launched the initiative to promote Internet access for children living in Sachkhere.
Koba Grdzelishvili, president of the “Virtuosic Classes Association”, founded the NGO in August 2019. Their centre is located in Sachkhere and offers classes in mathematics, Georgian and English. Koba Grdzelishvili also decided to offer free-of-charge classes in the three subjects for a year to help those children who could not attend classes for several months.
“When the pandemic started, we knew we had to act. Everyone in Georgia could see that online classes were a big challenge. Schools give all schoolchildren computers, so they already have some resources needed for online learning. For our project, we selected vulnerable families who had elementary school students. An important and necessary criterion was to have more than one student in the family, as it permitted covering more children with access to the internet. After the project was funded, 50 kids in the Sachkhere Municipality were able to attend online classes.”
Today, Irakli is one of the children who come to Sachkhere from the village of Korbouli once a week to study the three subjects. He says he failed most in English when he stayed home. Now, his teacher Koba teaches him English and sends him online homework to do before coming to class. Irakli has not finally decided yet whether he wants to become an IT specialist or a mathematician.
There is another large family that benefited from this project. Mariam Gaprindashvili, a mother of three, says:
“I did not have a cell phone suitable to connect to the online classes. The kids were upset, and it was a disaster for me. Then teacher Koba helped us with the computer and taught us how to use Teams, so in June the kids could already attend the classes. In summer, Koba offered classes in subjects that the kids had missed and were failing. I don’t know how to express my gratitude to everyone who participated in this process.”
Since the pandemic started, the EU has provided financial support totalling EUR 1.5 billion for economic and social recovery in Georgia, with a special focus on vulnerable groups. As part of this support and the “Equal Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities” initiative, and in cooperation with the ASB Georgia, the EU has provided necessary services to the population affected by COVID-19. Food and medicine supplies, internet access, developmental toys for kids with disabilities as well as other necessary services have been provided to socially vulnerable families living in Georgian regions.
“I was happy to be able to continue my studies. Every day I attended classes, wrote assignments, and read. I couldn’t do that for several months, so I thank you all for your help. I still have some e-assignments to write, and I like it very much,” says Irakli, a 5th grader, who now has EU-supported internet access at home in the village of Korbouli, Sachkhere, and will no longer have to miss his classes.
See additional information about the Equal Opportunities For Persons with Disabilities here