It is late afternoon and the cozy school of Aygek looks as deserted as it should be after weekday classes. But one classroom in this village about 10 kilometers south of the Armenian capital, Yerevan, is buzzing with activity: about two dozen schoolchildren are using software that sets tasks for a robot they have assembled.
Nine-year-old Varuzhan is having his first day of class and he already knows what his robot should do first; “help my mom.” The non-governmental organizers of this extracurricular class, one of about 60 offered in public schools nationwide, have a more far-reaching goal – to increase dramatically the flow of skilled labor to Armenia’s burgeoning information-technology (IT) industry and other hi-tech firms. The tech sector is an economic bright spot in a country long beset by double-digit unemployment.
NGO activists are pressing the Armenian government to gradually launch such “study groups” in all of the country’s 1,400 or so public schools, including those located in remote villages often lacking basic amenities.
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Emil Danielyan is a journalist based in Yerevan.