Sunday, 17 November

Javakhk’s Modegam Village: More Teachers than Students

Modegam is an Armenian village in the Georgian region of Samtskhe-Javakheti.

In the upcoming October parliamentary elections, the village will be voting for candidates nominated in the Borjomi district and not that of Akhalkalaki, like the other Javakhk Armenian villages.

They are still waiting for candidates to favor their small village with a visit. Today, Modegam has a population of 160; 40 households. Ten years ago, the village boasted 60 households.

Residents want candidates to take realistic steps to finally bring natural gas to their village. SG Gas, the local supplier, says the village is too small to make the necessary investment.

Modegam village representative Aramayis Chakhalyan says they have brought the matter up several times to company director Aram Sanosyan to no avail. According to the Georgian State Corporate Registry, Sanosyan, a former MP in Armenia, owns 60% of SG Gas.

“For example, if residents in the nearby village of 50-60 households paid 600 Laris ($262) each for gas, we offered 700-800 Laris. But the company didn’t respond positively. We just want gas,” said Chakhalyan. 

Chakhalyan says that the community of Balanta, not far from Modegam and in the Borjomi district, has natural gas. It would just require extending the pipeline another 1.5 kilometers.

“They would tell us, you belong to the Akhalkalaki district and they to the Borjomi district. But what’s the difference if we are all Georgian citizens,” Chakhalyan says. 

Aramayis Chakhalyan (2nd from right) has served as village representative for two years

“There aren’t any gas tanks being sold in any of the villages. We have to take them to Akhalkalak to be refilled. There isn’t any diesel fuel either. One guy has a truck full of animal dung to take to the field as fertilizer so that he has a crop next year,” says Chakhalyan.

Village residents are engaged in animal husbandry, but due to the bad roads, no one is buying any milk or meat. 

Modegam is the most distant village in the Akhalkalaki district. The district of Borjomi is located on the other side of the mountains. Half of the 26-kilometer road to Akhalkalak is in terrible shape.

The original inhabitants of the village emigrated from Erzeroum. Today, residents are leaving for Russia.

A school with more teachers than students

Unlike many other village schools in Javakhk, the Modegam school is renovated but lacks pupils.

“When we were going to school in the 1980s, each class had twelve pupils. Now, the entire school only has eleven,” says Aramayis Chakhalyan.

Six-year-old Sargis Chakhalyan will be entering the first grade. Here he plays with friends visiting from Russia, children of former village residents.

Amazing as it might seem, the school, which goes to the ninth grade, has 15 teachers and only 11 students.

“People get an education, but there are no jobs. That’s why they leave,” says Aramayis Chakhalyan.

“There are no stores or a gas station in the village. You can’t even buy cigarettes. Who would want to live here?” asks the village representative.

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