Why we’re expanding access to education in Armenia

While Armenia works to improve their education system, children with disabilities are still living in institutions, away from their families.

The exterior an Armenian school and playground. The school is one story and is

What if you had to choose between raising your child or getting them an education?

In many Eurasian countries, including Armenia, children with disabilities are often sent to institutions, away from their families, and away from school. Families lack the knowledge and confidence to care for their children with disabilities at home. But it doesn’t need to be this way, if we believe every child can learn.

What if parents and families didn’t need to make this impossible decision? What if communities in Armenia could feel confident in caring for children with disabilities?

One family’s challenge

Meet Karine and Tigran. For Karine, a mother living in the Armenian city of Masis, everything changed after her child was diagnosed with multiple disabilities. There were no support services for children with disabilities, and Karine didn’t have the knowledge to care for her son Tigran and his unique and complex needs. But as a mother, she was determined to raise Tigran at home.

During the first six years of Tigran’s life, Karine’s family disapproved of the lengths she went to get the care Tigran needed. They worried that she was investing too much time and energy, and they believed she should place Tigran in an institution instead. She borrowed money from family and neighbors, traveling back and forth from Masis to Yerevan city to meet with different specialists, all because she believed her son deserved the opportunity to learn.

Igniting change in Armenia

Establishing systems of care and education for children with disabilities requires thoughtful planning and expert help. In 2014, the Armenian government passed the “Inclusion for All Reform,” promising education for children with disabilities in mainstream settings. But change has yet to come.

For many children with disabilities the only option is still to live in an institution, where they often receive substandard care and little-to-no education. And they’re separated from the families that love them. 

This is why for over 10 years, Perkins School for the Blind’s international programs have partnered with Armenia’s education system. We’ve worked in 6 provinces across Armenia to train teachers and empower families of children with disabilities so that more children with disabilities can access the education they need during the day—and still make it home in the evening for family dinner.

Supporting the family supports the child

Karine continued taking her son to different specialists for six years—until in 2018, a neurologist referred her to the Rays of Hope day care center, which is supported by Perkins-trained educators.

A classroom that includes 3 tree-like shelves each a different color: green, orange, and blue. There are also a collections of painted buildings made of paper on the floor.

Rays of Hope allows parents to drop off their children at the center, where they receive care built around the child’s disability and unique needs. Parents then pick up their kids in the afternoon and get to spend quality time together in the evening. At Rays of Hope, parents like Karine find the crucial support system they need in their lives.

Since 2018, Karine has been actively involved in Tigran’s education and has participated in training sessions on caring for children with multiple disabilities and visual impairments.

Our partnership with Perkins has been supportive in advancing educational opportunities for children with complex disabilities in Armenia, fostering inclusivity and access to quality education.”

Araksya Svajyan, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Education in Armenia

Perkins in Armenia impact by the numbers

As a global leader in high-quality, inclusive education, Perkins’ work in Armenia includes…

In 2023 alone, Perkins’ multilevel approach has reached…

Additionally, we have had the pleasure of recognizing eight Armenian citizens as graduates of Perkins’ Educational Leadership Program. These individuals spent nine months on Perkins’ campus in Boston and then returned home to lead change in their communities. Today, many of these graduates are involved in or leading Perkins’ programs in Armenia.  

Being part of Perkins’ work in Armenia has given me the opportunity to learn more in depth about children with complex disabilities and visual impairments.”

Susanna Muradyan, PhD, ELP class of 2020

Empowered people empower people

Back to Tigran and his mom — by 2023, Tigran unlocked communication skills he didn’t have before. Now, he can even mimic his mother’s laugh and voice! 

Tigran sits in between his teacher (left) and his mother (right). There are cards with images on the table that the teacher points at.

Karine has also achieved something special — she became a certified educator and works at Rays of Hope where she helps children like Tigran access the learning they need to define their own success.

Transformations like this are why we are dedicated to scaling up our programs and expanding access to education in Armenia. Perkins believes in what is possible, and we work tirelessly to establish new standards of accessible inclusive education for children like Tigran, and to empower more parents like Karine. 

Perkins believes change is possible because we believe every child can learn, and together with our partners we can show the world how. 

Are you ready to be a global leader with us?

Every day, parents like Karine struggle with an impossible decision.

If you want to help every child access education in Armenia and around the world, please support our work today.

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