Through a Child’s Eyes

What would they do if they were the president?

BY NAZELI KHODABAKHSH

Every evening, Melanie, Margaret, Sevana and I sit down and plan what to do with our Advanced English students the next day. We had already talked about family, school and hygiene with them, and were starting to run out of ideas when Sevana suggested we ask the students what they would change and what they would keep the same if they were president of Armenia. We were worried about whether or not we could help them with political terms or if they would even be interested at all, but the responses we got helped us see the changes needed in Armenia through a child’s eyes and the simplicity of most of their suggested changes showed some of the roots of the troubles Armenia faces.

Many of our students had worries that we would have expected to hear from adults. These children are so much more aware of their surroundings than we had expected. They share the household stress with their parents who are struggling to make ends meet. Hasmik Hovasepyan says, “If I were president of Armenia, I would create more jobs because I want to help people. I shall create more buildings because I want people to have homes.”

Hasmik is 12 years old and has worries that I have never seen in an American preteen, who would have been more worried about the latest video game or trendy outfit.

Trash has never been a problem for us in the two weeks we’ve been in Gyumri because there is a dumpster located about two blocks away from our temporary home and we produce very little trash since we don’t cook our own food and don’t clean much, but our students showed us that trash is a huge problem for Gyumri’s smallest citizens. 13 year old Jenya Hovhannisyan says, “I would create a law forbidding trash cans in the streets.”

While Jenya wanted fewer trash cans, 14 year old Gor Hovhanisyan “would eliminate trash.”

We had seen trash on the streets of Gyumri, but began noticing it more after reading our students’ responses. As Unger Gevorg explained to us, there are no laws about trash on the streets, and people do not care to find a trash can, instead choosing to dump whatever trash they have on the streets.

The innocence of the children really showed in some of their responses. 13 year old Angela Apriyan would “build parks for children and… give money and clothes to orphanages… and establish flowers and trees in streets.”

12 year old Alina Mkhoyan wants to “eliminate criminals” and “have world peace.”

11 year old Marian Nahapetyan would “eliminate money because people commit crimes for money and it is not needed.”

14 year old Andranick Khachatryan “would buy wonderful footballers for our country because today football is not good in Armenia.”

But some of the most memorable responses were the most serious ones. 14 year old Gor Hovhanisyan wants “to help for women and and laws that prevent parents from hitting their children.”

Hearing that from Gor, who is usually bouncing off the walls in our classroom was incredible. It just emphasized the fact that we learn something new about our students every day. I personally had always underestimated him and am sorry it took so long to realize his true colors. 11 year old Roza Simonyan wants “Ararat to be ours again,” but she had trouble explaining how she would reach that goal if she were president.

12 year old Arpi Antanyan “would build skyscrapers and change every building [and] keep the same only the natural beauty of Armenia.”

Like Hasmik and Arpi, many of our students wanted better, newer buildings in Gyumri, which brought to light that over two decades after the 1988 earthquake, there are still buildings that need to be rebuilt and the ones that survived the earthquake are deteriorating over time. Arpi also wants to “create a law about not smoking”

because she wants people to be healthy. In a country where smoking is accepted in almost every location, Arpi’s response gave me hope that there are still those who care about the health and wellness of the people. The final sentence of Arpi’s response was most memorable: “I would beautify my country so well that nobody would want to leave.”

As children of Armenian emigrants, we know that the conditions in Armenia are unbearable for many people, but it was beautiful to see that there are still those who believe that Armenians should stay in Armenia.

At the end of it all, Andranick said it best, “my country Armenia is the best in the world.” It is these children with their big ideas and innocent outlooks on life who will grow up to be the changes that Armenia needs in order to live up to its full potential. I’m so proud that we were able to see the beginnings of it.

With much love and hope,

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One Comment;

  1. Sirvart Garabedian said:

    Very interesting insight, i am so impressed that someone thought to sit with little students asking them if they were President of Armenia what they would do best to improve the image of the country. I liked the idea came from children and the school to get involved in questions and answers to ezpress freely their mind at a certain age when they are capable to understand and ready to open up their minds whatever they think of. It is the right time to start from that age what their future lies ahead in a country like Armenia where many families are leaving thinking to have better life in foreign countries. I always liked to sit with children to listen what is going in their minds and what can they do to improve the standard of Armenia if they became a President, good point. One wouldn’t how smart they are at that age and one can not treat them as children thinking that they are too young to get involved in such debates like adults. I almost cried as we always should treat them as unique to open their minds to listen to what extent their brain can embrace the quality of life and thus they will have more dignityas adults give attention to their questions and answere. An adult can learn a lot from them if they are cared in a better mature way and not to ignore by saying oh, these are children know nothing!! I always liked to deal with more complitated children to make them join their friends who have the courage open their minds and hearts as they are our future and they learn from young age to be educated, ready for serious questions as i witnessed in my relatives when i used to visit Armenia during Soviet era till after Independent, they are amazing, determined to learn something, they take hobies seriously and with great pleasure. I was surprised how they answered a question i directed to them that i was ashamed that they knew so much than i knew with my education. A five year old Maxim my late cousins grandchildren whom i met first time in 2005 summer, made me speechless that his dad who studied law, asked Maxim every country’s capital and Maxim to my surprise without hisitation answered very discreet that i forgot about some countries. To cut short, no body should judje a child in unappropriate way, in fact those people are ignorant including their parents they have no way of respect to deal with these wonderful smart kids that God knows when they grow up they might become a good president for their own country or to achieve their goal to be something one can never expect of!! It also depends on parents to sacrify to stay in Armenia as it is much safer for their children to get higher education though knowingly the circumstances is in their disadvantage, its a pitty ofcourse, what a child need to be treated respectfully as an adult with lots of care and pay attention to what they are questioning and get the right answer. I myself dealt with Saturday A.R.S students in Vancouver B.C. Canada as a volunteer teacher for Armenian language, all i gather that a child shouldn’t be a victem of embarrasment of shouting or beating to listen to parents forcefully, as they are very volnurabale shouldn’t be subject of discoragement to be stabourne and feel inferiority complex among his sourrounding, on the contrarry they should be dealt with care and understanding and for teachers to treat all indiscreminately but give more space to those who are behind due to shyness, or inferiority complex, Through my experience, i am not thought to be a teacher but when in Vancouver the A.R.S & school board approached me if i could volunteer to teach Armenian Saturday school, i accepted with great pleasure as first of all i also getting experience by preparing daily schedules. As we were registering & preparing students which class they have to join according to theie ability. I had 2 brothers accross my house, the young willingly was registered but unfortunately the older one who was six years old confronting his mom not to attend the school, his mom called me and showd to me what this child out of his hatred and inferiority complex marked on the brand renovated house wall such: “I hate you mom, i hate Armenian school , i hate Armenians, i do not want to attend this school” of course his mom was trying hard to convince him in good ways but the boy was staborne and determintal for his actions. I sat with him, i didn’t care how much time i spent with him to bring him on my way that i’ll take him in my class as i was teaching from Grade two to five but he had to go first class, the schoolboard accepted of course my opinion with pleasure since the child was encouraged and promised that he would be ready next morning to join his mom with his younger brother, my kindergarten daughter and myself, so everything went accordingly, he was ready for the Armenian Saturday School, i made him sit nect to me, his schedule was different then higher classes. As he had to start from scratch and with some difficulties to read & write Armenian, though it is not in my nature to discriminate children whatever his status or life style was, they all came there to learn their mother tongue as at that time there wasn’t Armenian day school. so years and years from Canadian schools they came to learn Armenian language and they did pretty good with the help of seven to eight all volunteer school teachers. Therefore, i paid a lot of attention to so cold boy as the rest were much more advanced due to their previous attandance every summer. Sometimes my firt class student had difficulty to read and write and became subject to laughter to other students in my class, i had to give them some kind of punishment like to stand by the wall one hand and one leg up to stand on one feet and one hand for five minutes until they came to their sences and apologized for their wrong doing. The end of the year came for graduation party, My first class student was much more advanced by loving and cherishing his Armenian language, his mom or parents had nothing to worry about, i also encouraged him with small poim of four lines which he impressed spectators by his courage and the feeling he ezpressed while saying his poim , after i handed all results to school board appearantly they surprised me with King Dikran The Great of Armenia’s old coin which was ordered from New Yourk, specially for now i am proud to mention his name “Ara”. I admitt that this not about me at all but with handling the student with respect, everything came to surface that Ara had the will to learn read and write fluent Armenian with good impression. Unfortunately we had to move to Toronto for my daughter’s sake to attend A.R.S. Armenian day school for her own good. Though i preferred L.A. California but my husband was reluctant as he lived their for two years after leaving Toronto, Canada he preferred to come back to Toronto. Another very unfortunate faith, that i hear that Ara’s very goodhearted, and very pretty at very young age lost the battle of cancer and she had passed away while the kids were their early teenage. We saddened deeply thinking what would be the future of the two wonderful boys, i was so so pleased that Ara joined the Canadian Policy Acadamy and became a Police Officer often visiting Armenian community became very handsome and admiring person that Vancouver Armenians, ofcourse. my family and i are very prowd of Ara. He sure made us very very happy and optimistic while i thought that, God forbid, that Ara would be distructed by his lovable young mom’s passing at young age. Please don’t get me wrong, as i mentioned before, it was nothing to do with my identity but all i strongly believe if child ren taken care of in good way and respected one could be surprised what amazing high profile jobs they can achieve of. Thank you for listening. Thank you Asbarez, GBU all for giving us opportunity to read your very interesting topics which remind us about some similar stories worth to remember in writing for people to get benefit learning how much our children are adorable, smart if good care taken care of. Luckily some years back Vancouver B.C. Canada h
    as its own community centre and daily Armenian School.

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