Olga Endeladze is a civil activist fighting for real systemic changes. Due to her contribution, Marneuli Democratic Women’s Society has launched a major campaign to bring back the pre-school education right to children. Olga managed to turn the kindergarten problem into a priority for the local government. Now she is working on improving municipal social programs. Olga wishes the program to be designed so that the people in need or extreme poverty could improve their lives.
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I was born and raised in Kharkiv, Ukraine. I am half Russian and half Ukrainian. I was 21 when I first came to Georgia. I am probably one of the last girls who have been marrying Georgian boys studying in Ukraine or Russia. My husband is from Marneuli. We’ve been studying in Ukraine together.
I am a biochemist by profession. When I arrived in Marneuli I realized that I had lost my profession: It was the 90’s – no laboratory was operating. Even more, there was no gas or electricity in the country. People used to stand in bread lines. There were shootings in the streets. Still, I did not get afraid or decide to move back – at the age of 21, you perceive your life optimistically, especially if you are in love. And I loved my husband very much. Now we have six children. Senior one is 26 years old while the youngest twin girls are 10.
I had also gained a qualified teacher status before, thus I started working at school in the beginning. I have been teaching biology and geography in Marneuli Russian School N6 for 15 years. At the same time, I have been working as a Deputy Director for education.
One of my friends registered a non-governmental organization Marneuli Democrat Women’s Society back in 2005. I am one of the founders of this organization as well. I’ve attended the training for community Radio Marneuli staff in 2006. This was a very interesting training that provided lots of important information. After finishing the training I have produced a series of programs on civil education for the local TV channel. One of the main outcomes of this project was that I upgraded my personal skills in civil education.
In the framework of one project, we conducted research on the needs of women. It turned out that the women were most worried about the kindergartens being far from their homes and villages. That’s how we started working on the issues regarding kindergartens. At that time, only 12% of children in Marneuli had access to pre-school education – This was one of the lowest rates throughout Georgia.
We’ve met the governor. I will never forget this meeting. The governor was surprised to see us. He felt shocked to hear that the existing kindergartens were not enough for the Municipality.
There was no other way left – I had to research the problem in-depth. As a result, I mastered the entire legislation. I met with all the experts in this field. We started to think of the ways to solve the problem. We calculated that the construction of ten kindergartens required about 20 million GEL – the entire budget of Marneuli Municipality.
We made our own evaluation and did the budget analysis. We were trying to figure out where the money could be saved and transferred to the construction of kindergartens. We analyzed the foreign experience and opened the first pre-school centers in 2014. Only the children of the age of 5-6 are enrolled in such centers. They stay here for four hours a day and receive only educational services – these children get prepared for school.
At first, we opened five pre-school centers in Marneuli, Jandara, Tazakendi, Kesalo, and Kachaghani. We signed the agreements with the schools about allocating a single room in their buildings for our centers. The schools were happy to cooperate – enrolling better-prepared children is the case of their interest as well. We prepared a special program for pre-school centers, agreed with the Ministry of Education in advance. We retrained the teachers. I see the centers are not able to offer a full service but, anyway, this definitely results in a certain solution to the problem.
With the financial support from the Embassies of Poland and Japan in Georgia, we managed to build a kindergarten in the village of Kapanakhchi. Even though kindergarten is small, children still can have access to pre-school education. Pre-school education centers still operate successfully – they are financially supported by the Municipality since 2016. As a result of our contribution, 30% of children in Marneuli Municipality now have access to pre-school education. The budget for preschool education, as well as the salaries of kindergartens’ teachers, have been increased.
Do you know how I plan my work? I see the problem, ask questions and search for the solutions. Our organization has a mission and strategy, but I won’t be sincere to say that we work solely on the issues regarding education or ethnic Azerbaijani population. We work on solving the problems in general! The absence of school or kindergarten in a certain village of the municipality equally concerns Georgians, Azerbaijanis, and Ukrainians.
At the end of every project, I say that this was the last one – I am tired and I can’t do more. Later I see the way to solve a certain problem, can’t help myself and start working on a new project again.
Now we are working on improving municipal social programs. We want the program to be designed so that the people in need or extreme poverty could improve their lives. In order to achieve this goal, we need to finalize targeted programs and the right politics.
It’s already 14 years I have been working on various local issues. During this period of time, I have accumulated a good knowledge and experience. I have been offered to get a career in politics but I believe I am more effective in the non-governmental sector from where I can do a lot more good things.
Author: Manana Vardiashvili
This article was prepared in the frame of the project ” Promoting new women leaders and ‘invisible women’ human rights activists” implemented by IREX Europe in partnership with Human Rights House Tbilisi, with financial support from the European Commission. The views in this article do not necessarily express the views of the European Commission.