“When I became the first place winner of the National Teacher Prize in 2017, I made a promise to the audience that I would tell my story and our story to the world, the story of teachers of Georgia. Every time that I have an opportunity to speak up, I know this is not only about me and my community, but that I am also a voice for a lot of dedicated, talented and enthusiastic teachers across Georgia.”
Vladimer Apkhazava – The first place winner of the National Teacher prize in 2017, became a finalist of the Global Teacher Prize. Lado is a civics teacher at Chibati Public School, in the Lanchkhuti Municipality, Guria region. However, he is no ordinary teacher, as he is also an activist who started his career in order to change the lives of children for the better, give them opportunities and help them to succeed in life.
When he first started teaching civics, many projects were being implemented in schools and across the municipality with the engagement of hundreds of students. Initially he was confronted about introducing to the classroom the elements of non-formal education, but his determination to change the lives of students and the community prevailed. Thus, this is the story of a teacher who started a “Democratic Revolution” by empowering students for change.
His project “Democratic Revolution” aims to make children more engaged in the learning process and to help them fulfil their ideas. Through this project, he did manage to turn the school into a small ‘state’, where classes represent regions; pupils’ organize themselves according to the principles of self-government, and the school’s management represent legislative and executive authorities, respectively. The project inspired and capacitated Lado’s students to become community activists, who try, every day, to improve the living conditions in their villages and, as a team, look for solutions to their problems.
Democratic Revolution is a daily challenge and lifestyle for a teacher who, beyond school, actively fights for the rights of children and protects the rights of kids who are experiencing domestic violence. In 2012, with his engagement a “Family Type House” for kids deprived of family care was established in the nearby village of Lesa. The House gave shelter and love to 8 kids without parental care and/or who were the victims of domestic violence. Since then, Lado has become for them much more than just a person who protects their rights; he eventually took on the responsibility for their happy childhoods.
The region where Lado lives and works faces serious socio-economic challenges, employment opportunities are rather limited and the poverty level is high. Due to reasons of poverty many of the students (in many cases with the support and agreement of their parents) give up their studies and move to Turkey in search of jobs. As well as that, the parents of many students also emigrate to foreign countries for labour in order to support their families with remittances from abroad. As a consequence, many of the kids live alone or with elderly relatives and suffer from poor family care.
Lado was one of the first civic activists and teachers to stand up against child labour with his bare hands. He did this despite the fact that he did not feel much public support and was even summoned to the prosecutor’s office. Through media engagement he made the issue into one of current importance and made his voice heard on a national level. To support the youngsters he mobilized a group of students travelling to Turkey for jobs in a club and carried out information campaigns to raise youth and parents’ awareness about child labour issues.
Based on his enthusiasm and volunteering spirit, Lado organizes learning events not only for his school but for young people from the whole municipality and region at large. For that end, in 2018 he initiated and established in the town of Lanchkhuti an Occupation Museum that shortly turned into an educational open space for students across many schools as well as teachers and different community groups. The space provides a free floor to different audiences to initiate and organize events, discussions, community gatherings and contribute to the enhancement of an open society culture.
“I go to work rather early and normally get home when everybody is already asleep in my small village. I want my country to wake up soon; Education is where our future lies!” – These words of his well encompass his life credo and the message he conveys through his active social agenda.