Yerevan State University Faculty and Students Stages Strike
A proposal by Armenia’s Minister of Education Science, Culture and Sport Arayik Harutunyan to do away with the teaching of Armenian language and history in the country’s universities has spurred protests in Yerevan on Wednesday, one of them staged by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Youth Organization of Armenia, whose members demonstrated in front of the ministry.
The ARF youth carried empty moving boxes and placed them at the ministry’s entrance to signal Harutunyan to use them to pack up his belongings and leave his position.
Members of the ARF Youth organization said that the ministry has more critical priorities than spending tax-payer drams to fund projects that go against what they called “national identity.”
In an announcement issued on Monday, the ARF Youth of Armenia also pointed to the proposal to not mandate the teaching of the Armenian language and history in universities and cited Harutunyan’s public, often vile, commentary in his defense as reasons for demanding his resignation.
Meanwhile, students of the faculty of Armenian language department at Yerevan State University went on strike in protest Harutunyan’s proposed legislation which cuts Armenian Language, Armenian history and Armenian literature subjects from the mandatory curriculum and makes it optional for students.
“This is simply a warning campaign,” said Gevorg Gyulumyan, a student of the Armenian language department who is also among the organizers of the strike, reported Armenpress. “Let the ministry consider this a warning. I advise the minister to consult with experts before making this kind of decisions.”
Samvel Yeghiazaryan, the President of the Students’ Academic Association of the Faculty of Armenian Philology, said they are initiating a petition to apply to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, President Armen Sarkissian and Speaker of Parliament Ararat Mirzoyan. “We will attach the signatures to the open letter. Nearly 700 students have joined the petition at this moment,” he told Armenpress, adding that all students of faculty of the Armenian language department were signing the petition.
In response to the striking students and teacher, the education ministry issued a statement saying that each university was free to choose its mandatory curriculum, saying, “wide autonomy is given to universities under this bill to decide the content of educational and academic programs.”
The ministry explained that in the event that the proposed bill is approved, the academic board of each university can decide whether these subjects should become mandatory in all departments.
“Moreover, in order to be accepted to any university in Armenia, Armenian nationals – regardless of selected major – are obliged to pass a single examination of Armenian language,” explained the ministry.
The ministry said the bill not only does not reduce the role of Armenian and Armenian studies, but on the contrary “stipulates the sowing of these important values and training of respective specialists.”