YEREVAN (Azg) — This year marks the 15th anniversary of the founding of the Sponsor a Teacher Program of the Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) of United States and Canada in Armenia and Karabagh.
During the last 15 years, the project has raised more than $648,000 and reached out to 5,404 teachers and school workers in Armenia and Karabagh. Throughout this period, Maro Bedrosian, treasurer of the TCA Board of Directors of US and Canada, has headed the project. Letters of thanks to sponsors and donors have been mailed providing the names of the teachers they have sponsored, visits to schools have been documented and photographed, and articles have been written in various newspapers, including Azg in Yerevan; Abaka in Montreal, Canada; the Armenian Observer and Nor Or in California; and the Armenian Mirror-Spectator in Boston, covering the delegations’ visits to the schools. Once a year, the names of all donors are published in the above newspapers.
The Sponsor a Teacher Program began when the difficult economic situation of teachers working in Armenia’s schools after the collapse of the Soviet Union was brought to the attention of the TCA. The latter placed this issue on its agenda at its annual convention. It was reported that the teachers working in Tekeyan schools were struggling financially and thus were often forced to emigrate. The convention collectively adopted a motion to launch Sponsor a Teacher in Armenia to initially reach out to the three schools named after Vahan Tekeyan. At that time, teachers in the schools of Armenia were among the most poorly paid professionals in the country. In 2000, a teacher’s annual salary was $120 and now, since the involvement of the Tekeyan Cultural Association, the government has increased their salaries so that they make anywhere from $200 to $250 a month. The TCA Board of Directors raises funds and delivers them to the teachers through special yearly visits.
Former TCA Executive Secretary Kevork Marashlian in an interview with the newspaper Azg said: “When we started this program, the economic situation of teachers in Armenia was quite dire. And now it already has been 15 years that this philanthropic endeavor has been organized for the teachers and entire staff of the schools named after Vahan Tekeyan in Armenia and Artsakh.”
The project is administered in Armenia by Gayane Muradian, Representative of the TCA of US and Canada in Armenia, who distributes the funds.
This year three members of the TCA Central Board, President Dr. Haroutiun Arzoumanian, Vice President Edmond Azadian and member Hagop Vartivarian along with Marashlian were in Armenia during the disbursement of the funds. They visited the Yerevan Vahan Tekeyan School on November 2, accompanied by Tekeyan members from London, England, Mrs. Hratch Kouyoumdjian, Garabed Boyadjian, Jirair Kevorkian, Hagop Fesjian of Athens, Greece and Sima Arzoumanian of Montreal, Canada.
The school is located in the Malatya-Sebastia district with laboratories for chemistry, physics and biology.
Principal Dzovinar Martanian greeted the guests at the entrance of the school and the dance group of the school presented Armenian dances as a welcome to the guests. At the principal’s office, Martanian informed that 504 students attend the school every day from kindergarten to the 9th grade, they have participated to many competitions that Tekeyan Cultural Association of Armenia has organized and won many medals. Then the teachers were presented their identity cards and received their stipends from the guests.
Members then toured many classrooms, including the French and English language classes. In every classroom, students recited poems written by Vahan Tekeyan. On leaving the school, students again performed Armenian dances as gesture of goodbye to the guests.
The next stop was the Garpi Village Vahan Tekeyan School. The Garpi school has 722 students. The entire school has been refurbished, including the Cultural Hall, with new chairs donated by Serop and Maro Bedrosian of Texas. The principal of the school, Arsen Ohanyan, said, “This philanthropic action is a bit of aid for the teacher in these difficult conditions. What is important is to be appreciated. This did not just get us used to receiving aid, but also obliged us to participate ourselves in the philanthropic work.”
While seeing the guests off, the staff of the school, in a custom special to the villagers, gave them fruits from their private gardens.
The Stepanavan Vahan Tekeyan School has 250 students. Through the intervention of TCA Armenia, the school was included in the government’s plan with the World Bank and received a new building few years ago.
The story of this school was extremely moving. When Assistant Principal for Instruction Hasmik Ghazaryan related the story of the founding of the school, she could not suppress her tears. She said, “I remember when after the earthquake classes were held in small huts, where nothing existed. We worked without salaries. While now I am happy when I see this school in good order.” And what do such philanthropic efforts mean for a teacher? “The pedagogue feels that his work is being appreciated — it is not as much financial aid as moral.” However, in all three schools, the teachers argued that they had never received such aid from the state, and they would have liked similar efforts to be organized on the state level.
The Sponsor a Teacher Program has increased the prestige of the Vahan Tekeyan schools.
The distribution of aid to the schools in Karabagh and Gumri will take place in the near future.