(from: Waldorf Education Worldwide, pp. 120-121, Note the Copyright!)
Since the end of the Communist era all the countries of the former Soviet Union have been heading towards a new social orientation but Georgia’s path has been more beset then most by difficulties. Power struggles for political domination have taken the form of civil war while ethnic conflicts in Abkhasia and southern Ossetia, followed by several years of anarchy in which armed gangs terrorized large tracts of the country, led to a virtual collapse of the economy, the destruction of the infrastructure and a state of lawlessness that was used by small powerful elites for personal gain while the great majority of the population was abandoned to economic and social misery.
The consequences for education are obvious. On account of the economic collapse there are few prospects for young school-leavers. A reform of the education system is urgently needed to enable them to gain the qualifications they need to survive in this difficult social environment, yet 12 years after the country’s independence such reforms have only now made a half-hearted beginning. Many qualified teachers have left their posts in the education system. Any attempts by the few motivated politicians with an interest in western ideas to bring about effective reforms of the education system at a national level are stymied by the financial problems arising from empty state coffers, an inflexible bureaucratic structure, insufficiently qualified, demotivated administrative personnel and the continued rumblings of Soviet attitudes and structures inimical to reform.
Attempts to found a school during the Soviet era
This is the environment that has to be contended with also by those who want to take initiatives in reforming the education system and society at large on the basis of an anthroposophical understanding of the human being. Even in the 1980s, when Georgia was still a part of the Soviet Union, there were a large number of groups studying aspects of anthroposophy. In 1986 several individuals attempted for the first time to gain permission from the Soviet authorities to found a Waldorf School. This attempt foundered on account of the requirement that the head of such a school must be a party member. In 1989 11 children attended a playgroup run on Waldorf lines. From that group the two kindergarten groups emerged which have since been integrated into the Tbilisi Waldorf School.
Foundation of the Waldorf School During 1992/93 one of the subsequent founders of the Waldorf School in Tbilisi participated in the one-year teacher training course at the Stuttgart Seminar for Waldorf Education. During that period first contacts were made with the Waldorf School at Saarbrücken (Germany). Saarbrücken has been officially twinned with Tbilisi since 1975. The German-Georgian Circle of Friends came into being in connection with the Saarbrücken school. Among other initiatives it also now supports the Tbilisi school initiative.
While the ethnic conflicts in Abkhasia and southern Ossetia were reaching their culmination in 1993 the first public conference on Waldorf Education took place in the centre of Tbilisi. Despite the problematical circumstances over 100 people attended, including a former mayor of Tbilisi who is now the Georgian ambassador in Germany, and several members of Education Ministry staff. The initiative of this conference led to the founding of an “out of hours” school where for a year children between 6 and 8 could attend classes in various artistic subjects twice a week. Work with the parents on the basics of Waldorf Education accompanied these classes. The group that arose out of these activities shared by children, parents and teachers was the group that founded the Waldorf School of Tbilisi a year later on 3 September 1994. The city authorities provided the school with the premises of a former kindergarten. This building was renovated and enlarged with the help of the Friends of Waldorf Education within the framework of a scheme promoted by the Federal German Ministry for Economic Collaboration and Development. To this day the school is run as a state school with contractually agreed autonomy in matters of social and educational structure. All the class teachers and some of the specialist teachers were helped by the Stuttgart Seminar for Waldorf Education to attain further training as Waldorf teachers. Three future teachers have meanwhile also attended the Stuttgart Seminar.
Waldorf Education in today’s social environment
The educational establishments based on anthroposophy are today like islands in the midst of the devastated social landscape. Parents whose children are fortunate enough to attend one of them are profoundly grateful. The wider public takes little notice of their work while the education authorities of the state tolerate them, in individual cases with some personal sympathy. On the other hand, misunderstandings about the nature and meaning of anthroposophy also lead to negative attitudes ranging from uncertainty to manifest rejection. These attitudes are underpinned by the stark disapproval of anthroposophical establishments by some representatives of the Orthodox Church which, although now formally separated from the state, continues to exercise considerable influence.
The older pupils are becoming increasingly aware of the hopeful contrast which the Waldorf initiatives present over against the depressing problems of their surroundings. In Georgian tradition, the second of January is called “bedoba” which means “day of destiny”. What happens on this day, so the saying goes, will set the scene for the whole of the coming year. The pupils of Class 8 suggested to their class teacher that they should all meet up at the school to work at something together so as to set a good stamp on the coming year.
All those active in the Waldorf initiatives here are hoping that a good star such as this will bless their future work.
The Day Care Home for Social Therapy opened in 1990 with five people in need of special care. In 1992 they were able to move into newly renovated premises. Today 35 young people and adults are cared for here. In 1991 the Centre for Independent Education was founded. In 1994 it set up a curative class within a state school. Out of this has arisen the Michael School which in 2001 has 52 children in nine classes.
Mathematician. Director of the German School in Tbilisi. Since 1992 Waldorf teacher. Founded Waldorf School in Tbilisi.