In October 2017 representatives from DVV international and the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA) went on a study visit to the adult education centre in Koda, Georgia. Through its various adult learning packages and vocational training courses, the centre has become an important source of new skills and upskilling opportunities for the locals.
‘Our adult learning centre is central for the development of the community of our town,’ says Galina Okropiridze, Director of the Koda Adult Education Centre. Most of Koda’s inhabitants belong to a community of internally displaced persons. Estimations of the number of internally displaced persons in Georgia go as high as 250,000, making up roughly 5% of the entire population of the country.
‘The 90s were a very difficult time for us because many Georgians left the country in search for better jobs and a better life,’ explains Ms Okropiridze. ‘Local communities suffered from this loss of workforce, but also from the loss of the social glue that held together families and communities.’
Koda, a small town south of Tbilisi, was doubly affected by these societal changes, having also become a receiving community for internally displaced persons. As a result of armed conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, people migrated from these regions to villages and towns in other parts of the country.
‘These communities lived very isolated from the rest of the local population. People from the communities had very few opportunities for getting an education and doing skilled work,’ explains Dalia Santeladze, Country Director of DVV International in Georgia. To respond to the learning needs of internally displaced persons, in the mid-2000s DVV International, together with local partners, started creating adult education centres in rural areas.
Today, there are ten adult education centres in Georgia, with three more centres in the pipeline. ‘This building was provided to us by the municipality,’ says Ms Okropiridze about the Koda Adult Education Centre. ‘Together with people from the local community, we have renovated and refurbished it. People feel a great sense of ownership to this learning centre.’
The adult education centres offer ‘adult learning packages’. These include courses both from non-formal adult education and vocational education and training. ‘A holistic approach to lifelong learning is not only preached here but also applied in all educational activities,’ says Ms Santeladze. Learners can take VET courses, such as sewing, construction, agriculture, furniture making, hairdressing, cooking and baking, along with many others that are relevant for the local communities and economy.
/et/file/koda-adult-learning-centreKoda Adult Learning Centre
At the same time, learners’ personal development plays a central role. The Koda Adult Education Centre offers civic education through debate classes, meetings with local politicians and legal consultations. Furthermore, the centre provides cultural education by bringing cultural offers as well as by taking learners to cultural events and spaces. As a third pillar within the personal development offer, classes that promote health education and financial literacy are very much in demand. Courses for further personal and professional development, such as ICT and language classes, complement the programme.
‘One of the main objectives of integrating non-formal adult education and VET courses is to promote entrepreneurship. Creating or leading a business without social or creative skills would not work, neither in Georgia nor anywhere else,’ Ms Santeladze is convinced. She further says that their approach has greatly contributed to the creation of new businesses and employment opportunities in the regions where the adult education centres are located. They have also started to open social enterprises in the centres with the aim to become financially self-sustained. These social enterprises include, among others, a sewing and a honey production workshop, a coffeeshop, and a recycling and upcycling workshop for household electronics.
/et/file/koda-centre-timetableKoda Centre Timetable
The staff of the Koda Adult Education Centre take pride in the course schedule and the facilities where the courses and workshops are held. ‘All ages are engaged, from children to elderly persons over the age of 80,’ says Ms Okropiridze. ‘Our oldest learner, who is now also a trainer, is over 80. She gives classes in quilting and felting.’ While at the beginning of the project, the trainers and educators came from other towns, they are now all from the local community, thanks to a capacity building programme for new and aspiring trainers and educators. Most of them were previously learners at the centre.
As the learning centres are growing and expanding, the groups of learners who attend classes are becoming more diverse, too. ‘Nowadays, our learners come from all walks of life,’ says Ms Okropiridze. Since the inception of the first adult education centres in Georgia in 2006, they have reached more than 60,000 people and counting. Ms Santeladze concludes the tour: ‘Our learning centres are not mere learning places – they are meeting spaces for the entire local population. It is not for nothing that our slogan is to change lives for the better.’
The adult education centres in Georgia have been founded by DVV International, with financial support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the European Union. Today, all centres are members of the national platform GAEN, the Georgian Adult Education Network, founded in 2014 and since 2015 a member of the European Association for the Education of Adults.
Raffaela Kihrer has worked in EU adult education and lifelong learning since 2013. As a Policy Officer at the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA), she promotes the values of non-formal adult education and learning through advocacy and information work at the European level. Raffaela is particularly interested in the field of citizenship education and represents the perspective of non-formal adult education in the steering group on global citizenship education in Concord Europe.