By Siranoush Khachatryan
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
BOSTON — This year marks the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Tekeyan Cultural Association’s “Sponsor a Teacher in Armenia and Karabagh” project, whose celebration kicked off on Tuesday, May 4 in New Jersey, followed by celebrations in Philadelphia, Montreal, Toronto, Detroit, Chicago and Pasadena. The Celebration Committee invited a special guest, Gayane Muradian, who has been a member of the Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) of Armenia since 2000, and in 2003 was appointed the director general of the association.
The Sponsor a Teacher project began when attention was brought to Tekeyan Cultural Association the difficult economic situations of teachers working in Armenia schools after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The TCA in its annual convention in California put this issue on its program of important and critical affairs. 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 the Sponsor a Teacher in Armenia project to initially reach out to the three Tekeyan-sponsored schools. At the time, teachers in the schools of Armenia were among the most poorly paid professionals. 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 Board of Administrators raises funds and delivers them to the teachers by special yearly visits. Muradian spoke about the reception the visitors receive visit, remarking, “When we arrive there for our missions, it’s a feast. Once you arrive in the village, they greet you at the entrance of the village and they have a very enthusiastic cultural program, dancers and musicians.”
She is the one that handles all the money and puts all the money in the envelopes with the name of each individual teacher. Muradian said that “the coordinator of the program, Maro Bedrosian, has set a goal of raising $100,000 in endowment fund, in addition to the annual drive that she organizes throughout the United States and Canada. During the last ten years they raised about $395,000.”
The Sponsor a Teacher project has increased the prestige of the Vahan Tekeyan schools in Armenia, and over the years the numbers of schools participating has increased from three to five. Four of the schools are in Armenia. In Yerevan, the school is located in the Malatya-Sebastia district and comprises 600 students with laboratories for chemistry, physics and biology. In Gumri, the school has 800 students. Owing to community involvement, the school is equipped with a year-round heating system in addition to a computer classroom and clubs catering to the student’s preferences. The Stepanavan school has 250 students. Through the intervention of the TCA Armenia, the school was included in the government’s plan to receive a new annex in 2010. Construction has already begun and the school is currently furnished with appurtenances and is technically sufficient. The Garbi school has 892 students. The entire school has been refurbished and has a unique, four-part choir with abundance of study groups. The school in Karabagh is in Berdzor (Lachin Corridor). The school is located in the city’s heights, with 280 students.