Dashtadem Village School: Only Seven Students, but Science Teachers Lacking
Dashtadem is a small village in Armenia’s Lori Province, located next to Armenian-Georgian border.
Having more than 1,000 inhabitants in the 1960s, that number has dropped to some 200 today.
The village’s basic school has only seven students.
Because of this low number, two classes are combined. Thus, second-graders Maneh and Artyom study in one class together with first-grader Rouben. Armineh Khroyan teaches Rouben the basics of grammatical particles, while at the same time she follows Maneh and Artyom as they read their Armenian language lesson.
In the village, guests are rare, so the presence of strangers makes the students feel uncomfortable and shy. They keep silent when asked about their everyday life and dreams.
School Principal Sergey Aghajanyan says the number of pupils is not fixed, since some of the families living in the village move in the summer and return in the winter. This year, they have four combined classes. Rouben is the only first-grader.
Teachers like Armineh hope that they will have more students in the future, since the birth rate has increased in the village.
The only senior student in the school is ninth-grader Harout Mezhlumyan. His two brothers also studied at this school, and then went to the army. He’s shy, but agrees to accompany us to his house after classes and talk about his favorite hobby - horse riding. He’s proud to be able to ride a horse without a saddle.
|Ninth-grader Harout Mezhlumyan|
Nine teachers work at school. Even so, there is lack of those trained in teaching physics, chemistry, biology, painting, and national song and dance. The nine teaching try to convey elementary knowledge of these subjects to the pupils.
The school building is two-storied, and only three rooms are used as classrooms. Built in 1935, the building had another purpose, but was adapted for use as school. The school hasn’t been renovated since its construction.
In recent years, the staff has repaired rainwater pipes and roofs with their own hands. In winter, the school is heated with wood stoves, but the classrooms are large and difficult to heat.
There is no gym inside, so the students spend their physical exercise hours outside, playing with a ball. Deputy Principal Sophia Margaryan adds that there is no bathroom in the school, and this creates greater problems in the winter.
The teachers’ room is located at the end of the corridor. One of the corners of the room serves as a seat for village mayor Marineh Khroyan, since there is no village administration building in the village.
|Dashtadem School Staff and Students|
Teachers note the need of a pre-school in the village, so that parents with kindergarten-age children don’t have to move from the village.
Armineh Khroyan, who has worked as an elementary-grade teacher for over a year, says it would have been easier for children if they had attended a pre-school, since they have to learn everything from scratch at school now, including numbers and colors.
Having combined classes makes it even more complicated both for children and teachers.
Photos by Narek Aleksanyan; Video by David Banuchyan