Interview with Director of Republican Special Educational Complex № 1 Larisa Sargsyan
Many people have a stereotype that offender juveniles study in this educational complex. In fact, who are your pupils?
Our school is for children who display an antisocial behavior. Children with antisocial behavior are those who have problems at home, school and in their surroundings. Everything starts from the family when the parents are not able to fulfill the child's upbringing, control, care and education. And as a result the child appears in the street. The child cannot be called an offender because he/she doesn't have conflict with the law. But he/she is in a risky state and if they stay in that state there will be cases of breaching the laws.
If the community services, the police find the child early he/she almost has no problem with the police, and if he/she stays in such a state, the parent doesn't agree, feel ashamed to bring him/her to school because the parent's agreement is compulsory for sending a child to the special school, the school turns a blind eye on his long-lasting absences, the child is not found by the police and comes to school with phenomena of breaching the laws that is propensity to theft, the begging is widely spread, the child may not be a beggar but may get addicted to cigarette etc.
How do those children appear in the school?
The police or the councils of guardianship and trusteeship mediate in districts of Yerevan, and in communities this is done by the departments of the protection of children's rights in regional administration. .
According to 2011 order of the RA Ministry of Education (ME) those children must be registered in the departments of protection of children's rights as children with antisocial behavior who appeared in difficult situation of life.
This is the only institute in the Republic. We have 82 pupils in the school at this moment.
How is the education organized?
Republican Special Educational Complex № 1 implements a comprehensive program of child protection that is education, upbringing, care and social-psychological rehabilitation works.
The education is organized with the program of secondary school. But our institute is not like other schools which the child should finish. The institute is temporary.
When the child enters the school, he/she is estimated by our experts, the problems are identified and the directions of work they should carry out. We have an individual program with each child and the team works with that program which is periodically revised. The child is the active participant of the individual development program if we can we also make the parents as participants.
We start working with the child to solve the problems. First the work is done to improve the relationships between children and parents because all have problems in their families. The child gets an education and upbringing at the same time and is included in different groups, sport and cultural events proceeded from their preferences.
Some work is done with the family so that when the family is ready the child can come back to the family. Most of the families want to adopt the children when they grow up and are 16 years old and they can work and help. It is more difficult in low ages as they dodge the responsibility and are not able to satisfy the child's minimum needs. We may improve the child's antisocial behavior but the parent may not be ready to take him back. Our trouble is in families. Everything comes from the family.
What kind of families are the children from and what work is done with the families?
The children are mainly from one-parent families, mostly with single mothers. We have children whose guardians are the orphanage, the aunt.
Our experts visit the parents or they come. We make groups of parents and have trainings with them, we went to regions within the frames of one of the programs and taught the teachers how we worked with the parents and they passed on their experience to us. We will soon become a resource-center that is we will give consultation, and make handbooks.
How long does the improvement of antisocial behavior last?
The term is decreasing. If previously it was 8-10 years now the maximum is 5-6 years, there is a child who stays here for 6 months or 1 year. Everything depends on the family.
We do our best to strengthen the connection with the family and to abolish the conflict. All the children who enter the school have conflict with their parents.
If the parent wants and is able to look after his child, we send the child home but we inform the relevant department of protection of children's rights that the child has antisocial behavior but the parent wants to take the child home and they have the right.
What kind of specialists work with the children and what rehabilitation work is being carried out?
As in the secondary schools, most of them are pedagogues-teachers. Educators, psychologists, social pedagogues, heads of cultural and crafts circles, who have corresponding professions, work with them.
We have clubs of singing, dancing, fine arts and computer training. We also have clubs of applied pottery and circus, which serve as an art therapy especially for super active (energetic) children. We have clubs of sewing, shoe manufacturing and hairdressing as well. Children take part in the trainings of the football club and participate to competitions with great pleasure. We do our best not to restrict the children in any field of occupation.
We organize different kind of events every month. We take them to cultural centers-cinema, theatre and public catering- doughnut house or to eat pizza and ice-cream. Eating is not our main aim; we want the children to communicate with the people surrounding them in order to learn proper manners and get to know our city.
Do you follow their mode of life after graduating from the Educational Complex?
After graduation the children are no longer in our guardianship, nevertheless we look after them with the corresponding organizations, they also come, why not to come. We always feel this link of knowing what is their occupation, where they work and live. Also there are cases when we learn that after becoming an adult someone had violated the law and was convicted. But such cases do not occur very often, only one or two cases per year.
8 of our graduates study in Higher Educational Institutions. That may be a small number for an ordinary school, but that is a great number for us. It is 5-6 years that one of our graduates enters a university every year.
What profession do they choose?
The professions of psychologist and social pedagogue. We have one student in the Military Academy. This year we have two graduates who want to become rescuers. And all the graduates know hairdressing and sewing according to their preference. We have one girl who has graduated and now she simultaneously earns pocket money and studies.
What problem and needs does the school have today?
The main problem of the school is finances; we do not have sufficient funding. It is very difficult for the state to support such a school, it takes high expenses for every child, but we try to do all we can. If the children are in this school they are not limited with education, they have to be clean and clad.
There are problems of acquiring materials and equipment such as laboratories and computers, beds for the children, furniture, we also need training of the specialists which is in the process.
Many of the children do not have the manners of using the basic household facilities as they lived in houses without a bathroom. We teach how to use this facilities, but we have loses as they destroy and demolish it, there is constant need of repair, so we try to get funding from benefactors and charitable organizations.
Interview by- Mery Alexanyan