State of Children's Rights in Boarding Schools Subordinated to Georgia’s Orthodox Church and Muslim Denominations
On 26 October 2015 the Public Defender presented a special report on the state of children's rights in the boarding schools subordinated to the Orthodox Church of Georgia and Muslim denominations of Georgia. The report covers the period from March 15 to February 23, 2015, and was prepared by the Public Defender's Special Preventive Group and the Center for Child’s Rights. Monitoring in the boarding schools was carried out within the scope of the mandate of the National Preventive Mechanism.
The state of children’s rights was monitored in: 1. Stepantsminda’s Ilia the Righteous Gymnasium-Boarding School (non-commercial legal entity of the Orthodox Church of Georgia); 2. Javakheti Ninotsminda’s St. Nino Boarding School of Orphaned, Abandoned and Homeless Children (non-commercial legal entity of the Orthodox Church of Georgia); 3. Boarding School of St. Mathata Fund (non-commercial legal entity of the Orthodox Church of Orphaned) in the village of Feria; 4. Girls' Boarding School of the Union of Georgian Muslims in the village of Feria; 5. Boys’ Boarding School of the Union of Georgian Muslims in the village of Feria 6. Boys’ Boarding School of the Union of Georgian Muslims in Kobuleti; 7. Bediani Rehabilitation Center for Children and Juveniles of the Orthodox Church of Georgia.
The monitoring has been the first attempt within the Public Defender’s mandate to examine the state of children’s rights and identify challenges in the abovementioned boarding schools as well as to draw up recommendations.
The monitoring was aimed at evaluating the observance of state standards of child care in the boarding schools as well as the efforts of the state to promote implementation of these standards.
The monitoring showed that the quality of care in the above-mentioned institutions varies and is not regulated by a unified child care system, as the beneficiaries of the boarding schools are not under state care – are not involved in social service care program. This makes it difficult to realize the child's fundamental rights and freedoms, such as the right to health, the right to education, protection from violence, and so on. The fact that these beneficiaries are not under state care creates problems for children with disabilities as well. It is impossible to define a status and provide relevant medical service for them without the participation of the state. In addition, it is problematic to regulate personal documentation of the juveniles and to define their educational needs without cooperation with the Social Service Agency.
Thus, the services provided for beneficiaries in boarding schools of religious denominations need to be harmonized with the state standards of child care, while upbringing of beneficiaries must be ensured in the family-like environment. For this purpose, the steps taken by the state can be described as unsatisfactory. In compliance with the state policy for deinstitutionalization, the state should apply all measures in order to ensure observance of the state standards of child care. In particular, it must create an appropriate mechanism for monitoring the implementation of these standards, ensure training and capacity building of the persons involved in the service, hold a dialogue with all interested parties for achieving the child’s well-being and harmonious development, and strengthen international cooperation in order to ensure effective implementation of the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Implementation of the recommendations given in this report depends on the state’s consistent policy.