On May 26, Yerevan’s municipal council voted to provide 8 public facilities (with a total 2000 square meter area), of which 4 operating and closed kindergartens to the Union of Landkeeper Veterans (Yerkrapah) for free.
The Landkeepers’ Union has had access to these communal facilities for a long time, the decision is in effect extending the terms of past decisions.
The Municipal hearing took place under heated debates. Ani Khachatryan from “Bright Armenia” for example, claimed it was a matter of honor and a moral thing to provide these facilities to Landkeepers’ Union as they have links with the Defense Ministry, have an input in recruiting volunteer soldiers and contract soldiers, they give military and patriotic education to the youth, operate halls of glory and museums etc.
Some members of “My Step” opposed. Anna Javakhyan proposed dropping the issue from the agenda.
Javakhyan justified her position with numbers: 30 649 children attend preschools. There are, however 9 317 children under 3 cuing to get accepted to kindergartens, of them 6 845 are already 3 years old. “With the current facilities we have, we will never resolve this issue. These kids are growing up, they are not simply subjects waiting under kindergarten walls when a vacant place will open for them to receive preschool education, to exercise their right. We hope that their parents will take them to paid private kindergartens but what if the parent does not have money?”
Javakhyan insists that by depriving children of preschool education, the state drives their families into poverty, as at least one of the parents has to remain jobless and take care of the child. She continued showing numbers of children cueing for kindergarten places in Erebuni district, where 1143 children are on waiting lists. “At least half of these children should forget they will ever see the face of kindergartens. We cannot resolve the issue of their kindergarten attendance if we provide the territory of an operating kindergarten with 402 square meters to some organization for free.”
Javakhyan says that the argument that the community does not have sufficient funds to repair these facilities and they would remain unused in any case, cannot be acceptable. “Children’s interest must prevail for the community. Finding money for returning these territories to children must be a priority. These are facilities robbed from children by the former authorities and we must demonstrate the will to return them to children.” Javakhyan also said that she would not participate in the voting, as she did not accept the dilemma she has been forced to choose from: “landkeepers or children?”
Deputy Mayor Tigran Virabyan reacted that the additional needed 6000 kindergarten places will cost the community budget several billion AMD. At any moment, when the city will have the money, they will bring the facilities back to the community and make them kindergartens.
Another municipal employee tried to pacify that at any moment the lease (for free) contract can be severed by one of the parties.
The debate turned into glorification of war and war heroes by the end. “Prosperous Armenia’s Markos Harutyunyan decided to quote his colleague: “These people have occupied (he later corrected himself “liberated”) kilometers of territories for us, how can we find it inappropriate to provide 200 square meters in the center of the city for them?”
The Municipal Council eventually voted in favor of providing 8 communal facilities with a total of about 2000 square meters of area to “Yerkrapah” Union headed by MP Sasun Mikayelyan for 5 years for free.
[With one of the facilities that used to be a kindergarten earlier leased to “Yerkrapah” the Union is now involved in a criminal case by which the area was not used as was intended by the contract and was operated as a private business for massage. This facility’s lease has also been extended by the municipal decision.]