Letter from Armenia – No 2 Peter Gay


In my first letter I wrote about arrival in Yerevan.

I didn’t refer to the fact that Christmas had come again, Armenians celebrate Christmas on January 6th. So the big Christmas tree was still in pole position in Republic Square as were the many Christmas decorations and artificial trees operating on solar energy.

Locals were not impressed as while the Council was busy erecting Christmas decorations, they were not clearing the heavy snowfall on the roads & pavements that would turn into ice.

Well, the ice is everywhere and extremely dangerous it is. Fortunately I have an old pair of shoes that I keep for icy conditions & they are working fine.

Temperatures remain very low, this morning it was -15.

However there are compensations, the Armenian team I am working with is one of the very best I have ever worked with. They are business like, serious but warm and friendly: what more can an international consultant want?

For those who don’t know, the UN has very specific ways of working. All projects must start with a Situation Analysis so that the base line can be set.

I have been doing the rounds of meetings and so far I have met the Minister of Labour & Social Issues, his Deputy and the Head of Strategic Planning at the Ministry of Education.

My job is to lead the team that prepares a working plan for the closure of 2 old style schools for children with special needs and their integration into Inclusive schools. As you can imagine this is not an easy task but I am very happy to have an excellent local consultant helping me with it.

In my last letter I spoke about the ‘special needs’ school we visited this week. It’s a Soviet built giant of a place, designed for 350 children now housing less than a third of that.

Soviet planners didn’t think about winter heating or accessibility for wheel chair users. They did think about big concrete structures with lots of rooms with high ceilings and wooden floors (now disintegrating).

We met the School Director who was doing her best with such difficult conditions. Mission possible or impossible? We shall find out.

This weekend I have a sight seeing tour of Yerevan which will be good even if the temperature will be -6 or below.

Next week I head down country to the region next to the Iranian border; I won’t be crossing the border, not permitted for a humble visiting consultant. But I will be looking closely at the existing schools and services and I will report more in the next letter.

Meanwhile I feel very secure having been obliged to take the UN Basic & Advanced courses on Security in the Field and also had a 30 minute 1:1 with a Security adviser. It all seems a bit of a sham really as I come from a place that’s more dangerous than here.

More next time
Peter Gay, Yerevan, January 2013

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