Tolerance and Diversity Institute

TDI Studies Alleged Facts of Discrimination at Mokhe Public School

Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI) points to the alleged cases of violation of  the Law of Georgia on General Education and the Code of Ethics for School Principals by acting principal of  the public school in Mokhe village of Adigeni municipality. TDI studies the facts of potential discrimination and violation of rights of the 12th grade student and will address all relevant state bodies for further response.

According to the student, on December 11, she submitted all relevant documents for being transferred from Batumi 27th public school to Mokhe public school and was awaiting the order of enrollment from the principle. Despite the fact that the student met all legal criterias, one of the teachers warned her about the risk of refusal if she continued to wear a headscarf  at school. The student is Muslim and she is wearing the headscarf according to her belief.

The student told TDI that the acting principal Natia Rekhviashvili prohibited her from wearing a headscarf at school. According to her Rekhviashvili said that the  public school of Mokhe has different rules and certain students are not allowed to wear a headscarf, because this action contradicts to the internal regulations and principles of  public school functioning.

Natia Rekhviashvili has been serving as the acting principal of Mokhe Public School since September 2016. It should be noted, that local Muslims doubt the legality of Rekhviashvili’s appointment itself. According to local residents there is a reasonable doubt that the dismissal of the former principal had discriminatory grounds. In addition, local Muslims say  that the member of the Muslim community, who, according to them was more qualified, had been  refused to take the position on discriminatory grounds too.

In addition, respondents indicate that the acting school principal had been active against the Muslims since 2014 - during the occurrences in Village Mokhe about the disputed building. Interviewed muslims have also noted that Natia Rekhviashvili encourages creation of discriminatory environment at school by her activities and expressions.

According to the information obtained by TDI, there are approximately 180 students at Mokhe public school, and 90% of them comprise Muslims. Students not only from Mokhe but also from the surrounding villages study there.

Article 19 of the Constitution of Georgia protects freedom of religion and belief. The State should not intervene in faith and private space of the person, but it should itself prevent the violation of these rights. Article 13 of the Law on Georgia on General Education prohibits any kind of discrimination at school and the use of  the authority by school the way it may directly or indirectly put the student in an undesirable position.

Article 18 of the Law of Georgia on General Education bans imposing obligations on students that contradict to their faith, religion and conscience. The law also prohibits the display of religious symbols at public schools for non-academic purposes. However, students are allowed to wear religious paraphernalia, including headscarfs. Therefore, the rights of the student were allegedly violated by the principal.

The resolution #80/N about approving the Code of ethics for school principals by the Ministry of Education and Science states that a principal must meet the professional standards and not influence the student emotionally or psychologically. According to the same code, the principal must treat all students equally regardless of their religious belongings.

After studying the case thoroughly, TDI addresses the Internal Audit Department of the Ministry of Education and Science to examine the case and react to it effectively. TDI also considers that it is necessary to study the circumstances of appointing the acting principal on the current position, level of her competence and compliance of her public activities and statements to the standards of professional ethics.