Risks of going to school in South Ossetia

Many schools in South Ossetia bore the brunt of Georgia’s attack last year and are still in poor condition. Some of them are hazardous to occupy, but children have no other option.

With the population of about a thousand there is only one school in the South Ossetian village of Khetagurovo.

Built around a hundred years ago, the school was partly destroyed by Georgian shelling in August 2008. With plastic sheeting on the windows it’s still cold. Even the wood burning stove doesn’t help.

Part of the building where the library used to be is now a pile of rubble.

The school is still open, however. The damaged part has been separated from the rest of the building to prevent any disaster, but anyone can still get in from the courtyard.

It’s very difficult to keep the children away from the debris. It’s no surprise – for them it’s the most interesting, yet the most dangerous playground they’ve seen. There is always a teacher watching them.

“Working here is dangerous. The building is in an emergency commission. I like working at school, but not in one like this. Children are the greatest treasure and I worry about them,” says teacher Nelly Margieva.

The education minister of the republic Anatoly Kusraev has commented:

“Our internal commission has ruled that the part of the building where the children are is safe, but an official investigation is necessary,” he said.

Another school in the center of South Ossetian capital Tskhinval – the only one in the whole republic with central heating – looks brand new, but it’s not. It was quickly rebuilt last August to be ready by September 1 – the beginning of the academic year.

“When kids run around the floor shutters and tiles come off,”
teacher Liana Gobozova complains.

There are about 70 schools in South Ossetia. Three of them are closed. Others are partly destroyed and have to take more children than they can accommodate. Local officials are working on the reconstruction plan, but it’s hard to say if the war scars will ever be completely healed.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is expected to discuss the situation in South Ossetia at its spring session.

On Friday, Corien Jonker from the PACE committee for migration, refugees and population is coming to the country's capital Tskhinval for an inspection.