Putting the Reforms into Practice: Meet a Kindergarten Director

Following an informative interview with Temur Tordinava, Head of the Tbilisi Kindergarten Management Agency, we decided to check out a case in point and, after a number of recommendations, chose kindergarten No.162 in Okrokhana, a village on the mount above Tbilisi, there meeting its director, Nino Tsiklauri.

The kindergarten is set in the center of a typical Georgian village, with cows trundling past the gate twice a day, and is surrounded by pine trees and an expansive yard with flowers planted by the young attendees themselves. The children all wear smiles and appear alert and energetic. No shouting can be heard from the teachers or other staff, who know all the children by name, and the air is one of peace and warmth. Last year, a number of restoration works took place there within the reform program of the Tbilisi Kindergarten Management Agency (TKMA)- the entrance, administration office, one nursery classroom and dormitory, the bathrooms, kitchen and the second-floor assembly hall were totally renovated. This was, Nino told us, the first facelift they’d had since the kindergarten opened in 1986.

The staff of 27 at the kindergarten in Okrokhana cares for 115 children in four classes of maximum 35 children, each group supported by two teachers. The kindergarten mainly serves local children, however, some parents even bring their offspring from Tbilisi and nearby villages.

Prior to starting her job as a kindergarten director in 2015, Nino Tsiklauri was the director of public school number 214. As a pre-school education specialist, Nino says she was always worried about the fact that children entering school were often completely unprepared. She notes that one of the reforms that has proven most successful so far is the school readiness program, through which children aged five and six are given the skills and general knowledge necessary to enter the first grade of school at the age of six. Another major breakthrough Nino points out is the nutrition reform in kindergartens which sees the company ‘Elfi’ now responsible for providing the highest quality food to kindergarten children and who was also charged with re-training kindergarten kitchen personnel in terms of international best practice and hygiene.

“Thanks to the enormous efforts of the TKMA and Tbilisi Municipality, public kindergartens in Tbilisi can now compete with private ones- not only with regards nutrition and the educational process, but in so many other positive ways,” Nino says.

She tells us about the newly established exhibition-festival of children’s drawings ‘With little Hands’ organized by TKMA and held in all Tbilisi kindergartens. The teachers present the best artworks of their children for a final exhibition-auction to be held publicly on June 3 on the New Aghmashenebeli pedestrian street. All funds raised will be donated to the Solidarity Fund and its beneficiaries. “Two weeks ago, well-known artist and children’s entertainer Zaal Sulakauri (Zaliko) came up to the Okrokhana kindergarten to help us choose the best works,” Nino says. “The children were very excited to see him on their ‘home territory’ and to take some small drawing lessons with him”.

Kindergarten 162 makes it a mission to engage its children in various educational and social awareness-raising activities, from projects about caring for the planet, learning how books are made and attending theater performances at the Tbilisi Nodar Dumbadze Youth Theater, to litter-picking in a small area of the Mtastminda forest and planting flowers in the kindergarten yard.

“We’re trying to teach them from a very early age that they should take care of and love their country,” Nino says. “When choosing a certain theme, we first talk with our methodist to work out the best way to explore it with the children. One of the projects within the school readiness projects considers exploring the topic of books, and so we took our children to Bakur Sulakauri publishing house to see the whole process from designing to printing. The children got to see behind the scenes and to take away some free books with an added level of inspiration to learn to read them”.

“We think that love for books is extremely important and we’re always trying to interest them in reading,” Nino says, adding that they’re also encouraging children to be technologically savvy, too, recounting how a group of a children went to GAU university to see robot Piperoni, who speaks 19 languages: “The children were very excited to meet him,” Nino says.

“We want to get the children out of the routine. Kindergarten is not just about feeding and caring for children several hours a day, teaching them poems, songs and dances: we want to give them more and to help them be prepared for school. The school readiness program initiated under the aegis of UNICEF is a huge support for us in this,” Nino emphasizes.

Inclusive education is another key point of the recent reform and, thanks to TKMA, psychologists, teachers for children with special needs and speech therapists are now available in all Tbilisi kindergartens.

One of the major problems Nino highlighted during our interview is the lack of human resources and the need for retraining.

“I’m extremely grateful to my staff: they work with so much dedication and energy… and yet innovation is still needed. Creating a comfortable environment and providing a good nutritional program for a child is very important, but it’s not enough if there’s no content and no-one is there to guide and develop the child in the right way. Re-training is crucial and more is needed,” she says.

We asked her to visualize her ideal kindergarten. “My mission and goal is to have an educated, skilled and healthy young generation. The educational process has to be practical as well as theoretical, as it’s through practical lessons that children learn best. I have a healthy ambition to make this kindergarten successful and progressive. We still have many plans for the future and we always feel the support of TKMA and Tbilisi Municipality, and I would like to truly thank them for that.”


Nino Gugunishvili

04 May 2017 17:11