Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the ceremony in Secondary School 6 on the occasion of the new academic year - September 1, 2001

Dear children and teachers,

Dear parents,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I congratulate all of you on the start of the new academic year in Azerbaijan and I wish success to all schools, teachers of Azerbaijan, children and youth, which receive education.

Every September 1 turns into a great holiday. As the schools open, the children return to classes after the summer holidays. However, new pupils come to the first classes of each school. This year 160,000 children have come to the first classes in Azerbaijan. Imagine the pleasure experienced by every child! Every parent, father and mother, becomes happy that their child has grown and sent to school. If the life of anyone begins at birth, his conscious life, future and his place in society begins with school.

At the same time, schools receive great army of teachers. By the end of summer vacation and rest, they return to their jobs in school, in classes and practice their honorable mission. Therefore, today it is a great holiday for all our people, our country and the citizens of Azerbaijan. Today I visited your school on this occasion and I want to congratulate you once more. I hope that School 6, which is well-known in Azerbaijan, will continue its fine tradition and prepare well-educated young people for the future of independent Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan marks the 10th anniversary of its independence. This is the most significant and the most important event in our long history. Azerbaijan for centuries dreamed for independence, our nation for centuries wanted to be free, to create an independent country and to become citizens of an independent country.

For the first time we achieved it in 1918. However, the life of independence was short. Finally, at the end of 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, all the Soviet republics, including Azerbaijan gained independence. The road of the last ten years was not smooth. It was uneven. We faced with difficulties. When Azerbaijan gained independence, for several years it struggled against the military aggression of the Armenian armed forces. There were a war and bloodshed, our young people were killed. There are martyrs among the graduates of your school, as well. In addition, the internal political situation in Azerbaijan was unstable. All this prevented the timely and year-by-year development of the national independence of Azerbaijan. Finally, as you know, a civil war broke in Azerbaijan, in 1993. Azerbaijan faced the threat of splinter and collapse.

However, our people once more demonstrated wisdom and unity, and saved Azerbaijan from the tragedy. In those years I would say, extremely dangerous attempts against our statehood and independence were prevented and Azerbaijan finally ensured its internal political stability, got an opportunity to develop all areas of life. Today Azerbaijan is developing in all areas. Celebrating the 10th anniversary of the independence of Azerbaijan we are proud to say that Azerbaijan welcomes the 10th anniversary of its independence with great success achieved in all the areas.

However, we have not been able to normalize the situation in connection with the aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan. The Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of the Azerbaijani lands. Over one million of our citizens have been expelled from their homes. Most of them live in tents. We try to resolve this issue. Seven years ago, in 1994, we achieved a cease-fire and ended the war. We put an end to the bloodshed.

We have taken and shall continue to take consistent measures for the peaceful solution of this conflict. I believe that we shall put an end to it, the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan will be restored, our occupied lands will be liberated and our compatriots expelled from their homes will again return there.

In these difficult conditions Azerbaijan developed. It received economic, political, spiritual development and development in the field of education. Imagine, if I am not mistaken, a fifth or a quarter of the population of Azerbaijan consist of students and pupils who receive education in schools, universities, teachers and professors who work in them. Imagine the quantity.

However, in those years, this field was severely ruined. The education system was completely destroyed. Therefore, most people had no opportunity to educate their children and take them to schools. They just tried to somehow survive, feed themselves and struggle with problems. However, today, the education system of Azerbaijan is completely streamlined. The reforms carried out by us in the recent years in the field of education improve the quality of Azerbaijani schools and education, schools, and universities provide education corresponding to modern requirements. All this prepares the healthy, well-educated and highly skilled future generation of people of Azerbaijan.

Now people study everywhere. I mean, children and youth. Your school has a long history and is rich traditions. Now it has been restored. But you probably know that the children of our compatriots living in tents study at schools created in campsites. I was informed that some of the students educated in the tent camps passed exams to the universities with very high scores. What does this show? It shows the innate talent of the Azerbaijani people and the Azerbaijani youth. Children in a fully equipped excellent schools and those who studied in tent camps tend to develop and obtain education. Therefore, scientific potential, educational potential and the potential associated with the provision of all spheres with highly skilled professionals are gradually increasing. This is one of our main achievements in the period of independence.

The education system in Azerbaijan is under the care of the state. It means that schools, educational institutions, universities, except few ones, belong to the state. The government’s main task is to finance education, establish state-of-the-art facilities for high level education, for improving conditions in schools. You should know that our education system has the biggest share in the budget. It is not surprising. Other spheres may lack funds, but not education. Lack of finance in education will harm our future

The deficiencies, failure in education may create a threat to our future, therefore, education is financed by the government, - with the exception of some private schools – we shall continue to consider the development of education in Azerbaijan as a priority of ​​our policy and shall continue our efforts for it.

I used to visit School 6. Today I went to some classes. At the time, pupils did not know what a computer is, and now, they are sitting at computers. Today all schools are equipped and supplied with computers from different countries or other school supplies that meet the latest requirements. All of this is a manifestation of the care of state for education. However, this is the reason for people working in the field of education to fulfill their duties with more diligence.

Today with a feeling of satisfaction I would like to note that in all the schools of Azerbaijan there are teachers of all spheres. There is a teaching staff with an in-depth knowledge in our universities. However, each teacher who works in secondary school and high schools should know that the tasks assigned to them and the work carried out by them for the good of the state, the nation, the people of Azerbaijan is the most important and most necessary of all works carried out by people working in all other areas.

In the recent years, we have increased and will continue to raise the salaries of teachers and workers of the field of education. This indicates that we are able to offer the maximum care for this area. You can be sure that in future this care will increase. With the growth of the economic potential of Azerbaijan, budget of Azerbaijan, the funds allocated to school, education and teachers will increase and most of this money will be spent on the increase of the salary of teachers and educators.

I know that now the salary paid to teachers does not meet their needs as much as we would like. But you are to know that we are doing our best and shall continue doing it. However, the teacher in any environment must justify the honorary title of teacher.

Our teachers work in tent camps - it is clear that there is no home, no shelter, only one tent - who saw it knows and who did not, can go and see it. Living in such difficult circumstances, teacher care about children and give them education and they gain high scores here and enter universities. Thus, teachers understand the honorary title of their name and value it.

I am confident that most teachers live by these high moral values. If someone has not yet reached that level, I would like to wish them to carry out their duties and to know that the high morality of the Azerbaijani people is above all and the most expensive. It is important for the people, for the nation, for each Azerbaijani and every citizen.

As I said, School 6 is dear to me. Since my children, both son and daughter studied here, from the first to the tenth grades. For 10 years, I lived in the house nearby along with my children. However, at that time we did not have a problem with taking the children to school. Children themselves went to school and their mother watched them from the balcony. However, we had not other opportunities. We had no cars. However, then we did not use transport to send our children to school. We lived near the school and it solved all the problems.

My children received a good education. I say this not because only my children received a good education here. As you know, I have been leader of Azerbaijan for 14 years since 1969. I was very seriously engaged in education on those days. Thus, I know that in Azerbaijan, Baku there are model schools. They never lost the gained positions. Not only in Baku, but in the village of Yevlakh, Khaldane there was a model school. You know, though it was rural, it was a high level school. I have been there for many times and talked with its director Zahid Shoyubov. In addition, we awarded him the title of the "National Teacher of the Soviet Union," which in those days was very reputable.

A school can be in the town or village, in the center or outside of the town, but it cannot influence its educational level. School 6 has always been a model school and it has a great history. I am very glad that it survived the entire difficult period and was able to maintain this rank. I hope that it will continue to protect this title honorably.

I recall that in 1977 when my son Ilham left school I, along with other parents took part in the graduation ceremony. Many of them were surprised that how it is possible that the head of the country came here and took part in the ceremony, along with all parents. I think that the people were wrong, because we all finish schools once. We also were graduates. My son studied here for 10 years. If he received a good education, of course, I had to attend the graduation ceremony, to express my gratitude. Recalling those days, I would like to say that my late wife Zarifa, mother of Ilham and Sevil, attended all the meetings of parents and participated in them. It is the duty of every parent. Parents need to maintain close ties with school. They have to come to school to be aware of the conditions created in the school, not by the words of their child or by meeting a teacher somewhere, but visiting school itself. Thus they will be able to do everything possible to ensure that their children learn well, besides, the relations with school make the person younger. It is also of great importance.

I am very grateful to the school for what it has done for me, as a parent, to obtain secondary education of my children. It is not accidental that thanks to the education obtained in this secondary school my son graduated in Moscow from one of the most prestigious universities. My daughter graduated our university, Baku State University. Then, she obtained her post-graduate education at the Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow. My son later taught at the Institute of International Relations as a candidate of sciences. The root, the beginning of all this is the school. Naturally, the children cannot have the same talent. However, the efforts made by the school to ensure a good education to a certain extent reduce the difference in talents.

Once more, thank you.

The education in this school was in Russian then. Now they say that there are both Azerbaijani and Russian departments. It is absolutely natural. However, the Russian schools here in Baku were more than the Azerbaijani schools then. No one can be blamed. Since, we lived in the country like the Soviet Union. The Russian language was the dominant. People, who did not speak Russian, could not receive education in other towns of the Soviet Union. Or in governmental bodies there mostly Russian was used. Therefore, parents sent their children to the Russian schools. I think all this was natural then. However, these schools had shortcomings. For instance, at school in Russian the Azerbaijani children were not taught a good Azerbaijani language. Secondly, you need to remember the shortcomings of that time in order not to repeat them tomorrow.

All textbooks in Russian schools came from Moscow then. Mathematics, chemistry, physics, biology - no matter in what language they were. Name of an animal exists both in Russian and Azerbaijani. As well as the names of the plants. There is no difference in what language you learned math, if you perceived it. But one of the most important conditions for the nation and for the people is the need not only to be proficient in all languages, but also to master the Azerbaijani language. So it was on those days. We tried to achieve it then. But, unfortunately, it was impossible.

For example, the Azerbaijani language was taught in the school as something foreign. Since all the subjects were in Russian. Today I met here Emma Aliyeva. Is she here? Perhaps, she has already gone. She reminded me an incident which I have forgotten. When my son graduated from school, I visited the school, and said Emma: All is good here, but you were not able to properly teach my son the Azerbaijani language. It is nobody's fault. The Russian language was the dominant, so the Azerbaijani language was somehow in the shade. The teacher tried, but the pupils did not attach any importance to this. It was the reason. For 10 years we have lived as an independent state. Our Constitution states that the official language is Azerbaijani. However, some people who worked in this sphere, do not master the Azerbaijani language. Because he studied in Russian, worked using the Russian language and now study the Azerbaijani language carelessly and does not know this language completely well. These are the faults of our past. But it is necessary to draw a conclusion.

For example, this situation was observed not only in the study of the Azerbaijani language, but also in the study of history then. In secondary schools they taught the History of the USSR. 90 percent of this history reflected the history of Russia. The literature was also the Russian literature.

Mrs. Emma, -she taught my son - I remembered you, thus I asked. Do you know how well my son now owns the Azerbaijani language? You probably listen to his speeches on television. He speaks Azerbaijani better than Russian. And this is your merit. "History of Azerbaijan" was very brief. All the textbooks from Moscow were the Russian literature. But what about the Azerbaijani literature? In some cases, asking these young people who studied in Russian schools and showed no interest in the Azerbaijani language, the poems of Nizami, Fuzuli, Nesimi and Vagif or contemporary poets and writers we see that they do not have any idea about their creative activity. They for example, read the poems of Nizami translated into the Russian language. But no matter how you read them, you will not perceive Nizami with all your heart. They read poems, verses not in the Azerbaijani language. Therefore, people educated in Russian, unfortunately, had a fairly small vision of the history of Azerbaijan, of its rich culture and literary heritage.

I remember in the late 70s, when I led the Central Committee of the party, I instructed high-ranking official to go to the National Theatre of Azerbaijan, to watch a recent play, to watch and paraphrase it to me. Since this play was controversial to some extent. I noticed that he puzzled and I asked: "Have you been in the Theater of the Azerbaijani Drama?" He replied: "No, I have not." Imagine, he was educated in Russian, visited the Russian Drama Theater, but he has never been in our National Drama Theater, which has a long history.

Naturally, he will not know the works of the Azerbaijani playwrights, writers and poets. Because he did not read or watch them. If he watched the plays there, he would know. This is the cost of our recent past.

Now we are an independent state. Our national language is Azerbaijani. Education should be carried out everywhere in the Azerbaijani language. But where the education is in Russian for some Russian-speaking people there must be taught the Azerbaijani literature, language and the history. Thus, several years ago, our ministry was instructed to print books, textbooks on our history, literature, culture in Russian, so that the young people in the Russian department could read them in Russian. But I repeat, it would be nice if they read poetry of Samad Vurgun in Azerbaijani. Since their translation into Russian language does not give the same effect and feeling. This is one of the main issues.

The use of the Latin alphabet is one of the main issues. When I met the students of the eleventh grade, the principal told me that they study in Latin alphabet since the second grade. It means that they are ready in our society to everything. When I recently issued a decree that from August 1 all the publications, newspapers, books had to be published in the Latin alphabet, some complained and objected, saying that this was impossible. Why is it not possible? It became possible. Everything is possible now. This is also one of the main duties of the school.

I believe that School 6 will continue its fine traditions. My acquaintance made a positive impression on me. I certify that these traditions continue and I hope that they will continue in future. I believe that School 6 will be one of the model and national schools of Azerbaijan.

I wish the teachers of the school, all the staff, all the employees of the Azerbaijani education, all the teachers, students of Azerbaijan, young people in higher educational institutions successes along this road. I wish you good health and happiness. Thank you.

Translated from newspaper “Azerbaijan”, September 2, 2001

Historical backgrounds