In the midst of FAR’s recent celebrations commemorating 30 years of work in Armenia, the Parakar School also officially opened its newly-refurbished vocational training wing.
Renovations of the school, which serves students with and without disabilities, were launched by FAR in 2018 thanks to Board Member Marta Batmasian and her husband James whose generous support make this project possible.
Mr. and Mrs. Batmasian both attended the opening ceremony on September 24th, along with other members of FAR’s board of directors.
The five-year revitalization project aims to provide equal opportunity and a path to self-sufficiency to more than 250 children and youth through better education.
Disabled children are one of Armenia’s most vulnerable populations. Despite the government’s efforts to reform the social protection system through more inclusive education, some children are still unable to attend mainstream schools. In addition, many are brought up in poverty in families who are often unable to facilitate their child’s integration into society.
There are special educational facilities aimed to ensure these children have access to professional services, rehabilitation, education and vocational training. Upon the completion of its renovation, Parakar will be one of these facilities. The new vocational wing will enable students to learn skills in auto repair, sewing and painting for housing and construction.
While Parakar is one of the few public high schools in the country that provides general academics and vocational training to youth between 15 and 20 years old, state funding is hardly enough to cover salaries, utilities and meals for the many children who board at the school. Prior to the project’s launch the school was completely dilapidated and missing part of its roof. Its classrooms were ill equipped and sometimes unsafe.
“This is not just an infrastructure rehabilitation project. While designing infrastructure renovations we tried to ensure a safe and nurturing environment for learning and living in the campus for this specific category of children and youth that could help them develop their characters and self-purpose to live, so nothing stands in the way of youth’s aspirations to excel,” said FAR Programs Director Margarit Piliposyan. “This is another chapter in FAR’s program portfolio that leads us toward equal rights of children with disabilities and by implementing this project we want to make sure that all of them fully exercise their rights for mainstream and vocational education.”
In addition to the new vocational wing, the dormitory was renovated and furnished. Currently, the gym is also being renovated. School social workers, psychologists and educators have been trained in inclusive education by local and international experts.
The renovation of the gym and the physical therapy facility is sponsored by the New York Friends of Gavar School, a group of dedicated people who also continue to support FAR’s efforts to assist children with disabilities at the Parakar School.
Throughout the project teachers will be trained to instil in their students, personal values and life lessons that could help them to become productive adults and active citizens, regardless of their specific life circumstances.
“My wish is to have this type of facility all over Armenia. We are hoping and praying that this will set the stage for the future to help people with disabilities,” said Ms. Batmasian during the opening ceremony. “We do not simply follow the objectives of inclusive education but go further. We want to create a model that expands the concept of inclusion from the classroom to the workplace.”