Decision by the Ministry of Education and Science on May 28 to sack head of the National Examinations Center, Maia Miminoshvili, amid ongoing school-leaving exams and ahead of university entry exams came as a surprise, prompting staff of NEC to publicly condemn the decision.
The dismissal has also triggered speculation that political views of Miminoshvili’s relatives were possibly behind the Ministry’s decision.
The National Examinations Center (NEC), under the subordination of the Education Ministry, is in charge of administering school-leaving, university entry, teachers’ certification exams and tests.
In a statement on its website on May 28 the Education Ministry said that Miminoshvili, the long-time head of the NEC, was sacked because of disagreement between the ministry’s policy and “personal position” of NEC.
“Number of important reforms is ongoing in the education system aimed at guaranteeing high quality of education in our country,” the statement reads. “Unfortunately, in the process of implementation of reforms incompatibility of principle nature emerged between the Education Ministry’s policy and personal position of Maia Miminoshvili.”
“The National Examinations Center continues working in its usual mode, ensuring unhindered process of school-leaving exams and preparations for the national [university entry] exams,” the ministry said.
Several hours after this statement by the Education Ministry, a statement was posted on an official website of NEC on behalf of the center’s staff. The statement is made in a form of “an appeal to the President of Georgia”, condemning Minister Shashkin’s “rigid decision” to sack Miminoshvili.
The statement calls on President Saakashvili to intervene, because Education Minister’s decision, it says, “undermines” the processes of ongoing school leaving exams, as well as upcoming university entry exams.
“We strongly believe that a solution to any misunderstanding should be negotiation and dialogue rather than making the rigid decisions. We think that the quality of education [system] and relevant activities supported by the National Examinations Center should not be sacrificed for obscure disagreement of personal positions,” the statement reads.
“The position of Ms. Miminoshvili is in full concurrence with the visions of the employees of the center. Thus, the decision taken in respect of the director of the center affects each and every member of the center as well as overall performance of the organization,” it says.
Miminoshvili said that the decision of the Education Ministry was “a surprise” for her.
“The Minister [of Education Dimitri Shashkin] phoned me today and asked for a meeting. The meeting lasted for a minute or even less; he informed me about his decision; I wished him success and left,” Miminoshvili said, adding that a reason of her dismissal cited by the Ministry was “totally incomprehensible”.
She said that sometimes she had argument with the minister one some issues related to some aspects of holding the exams, but it was an ordinary working process and such debates “cannot be described as a source of incompatibility of views of principle nature.”
After Miminoshvili’s dismissal was reported, rumors started to swirl that presence of her son on a campaign rally of Bidzina Ivanishvili-led Georgian Dream opposition coalition in Tbilisi on May 27, might be the reason behind Miminoshvili’s sacking.
When asked about it, Miminoshvili responded: “Yes he was on the rally together with his wife… If true and if it was really a reason behind my dismissal, it is totally outrageous.”
Miminoshvili brother, Zaza Miminoshvili, who is a co-founder of the Shin, a Georgian band based in Germany, told Maestro TV that he was sure his phone call made to his old friend Maia Panjikidze, a spokesperson of the Georgian Dream, expressing his full support to the Ivanishvili-led opposition coalition was the reason why her sister was dismissed.
Later on May 28 Education Minister Dimitri Shashkin arrived at NEC office and met with the staff, but as one employee of the center said after the meeting they failed to receive any clear explanation why Miminoshvili was sacked in the midst of ongoing school exams and less than two months before the university entry exams.
“My only concern is to sort out situation within the center and to calm these people down; situation is difficult there, but I want to tell the staff to first and foremost respect what we have been building throughout last ten years and not to endanger the process of holding exams,” Miminoshvili said.