The Georgian government will undertake additional measures to help ethnic minority groups to learn the Georgian language, which will further foster their integration process, President Saakashvili said on December 22.
Saakashvili was speaking at a meeting with the staff of Georgian public TV’s news bulletins produced in the languages of ethnic minority groups – including Armenian and Azerbaijani.
“We should take additional steps in the direction of integration. We should enhance process of learning of the national language – Georgian – in the regions populated by ethnic minorities – I would say the so-called ethnic minorities, because I do not agree with this term, I do not think that they are either minorities, or we should distinguish them by their ethnicity,” Saakashvili said.
“We should strengthen learning of the Georgian language in Javakheti, Kvemo Kartli and other regions of Georgia, where the representatives of various ethnic groups live,” he added.
Large groups of ethnic Armenians and Azerbaijanis reside in Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli regions, respectively.
“Until now this process was ongoing very slowly despite my calls and numerous instructions,” he continued. “I contacted the Education Minister today and I instruct the government to increase the salaries of those persons, who teach in the areas populated by ethnic groups, up to GEL 1,000 if they work at full time. It will enable us to attract professionals to teach there.”
He said that entry exams for would-be students from ethnic minority groups should not be of the same standards as for the native Georgian speakers.
“It is not correct to set similar conditions for them and for the rest of the Georgian population. It was a serious shortcoming of the educational reform. We should improve this shortcoming. We should give them special privileges while passing entry exams. Several hundreds of representatives of ethnic groups should study at the Georgian higher educational institutions under the simplified programs,” Saakashvili said.
He said that the authorities should create incentives for the ethnic minority groups to stay in Georgia and continue their study in the local universities, instead of going to Baku and Yerevan.
“We are now developing a special program – there will be special scholarships, special privileges for studying the language to ensure that the best intellectual resources available in Kvemo Kartli, Javakheti and other regions of Georgia study at the Georgian higher educational institutions,” Saakashvili said.
He also said that the authorities should promote cultural exchanges between the various regions of Georgia. “For example, we should send delegations from Kvemo Kartli to Adjara, either from Javakheti to Kvemo Kartli, and so on, in order to get acquainted with the culture of each other,” he said.
“Time of Georgia’s de-occupation will come and the unity, which we have created among various ethnic groups, various languages, various cultures, should say its decisive word, because our enemy has failed to label us as chauvinists, nationalists or blame us for pursuing ethnic discrimination policy. They failed because this is something totally unacceptable for the present Georgian authorities, for me personally, for our nation and multi-ethnic society,” Saakashvili said. “Our multi-ethnicity is not our weakness; it is Georgia’s greatest wealth and strength. For this purpose, we will allocate additional funds. The Ministry of Culture has been instructed to popularize our multi-ethnic culture inside and outside the country.”