Message from President Ilham Aliyev on the start of a new school year and Knowledge Day
15 september 2020, 09:00
Dear teachers and students!
I sincerely congratulate you on the start of a new academic year. This year, the new school year begins in a new environment - during a pandemic. With this in mind, the new academic year will be organized in a new format. Our main goal is to protect the Azerbaijani people from this misfortune, and all the decisions made pursue this very goal.
I must note that Azerbaijan has taken very prompt action from the first days of the pandemic, and thus, we saved our people from significant troubles. Since the beginning of March, all schools, universities, and other educational institutions were closed with the primary goal of protecting children and youth from illness. Naturally, this has had an adverse impact on the education sphere. However, I believe that thanks to the measures taken, we have managed to prevent the most damaging consequences of the pandemic in education. I am sure that the new academic year, which begins in unique circumstances, will be successful. All our students will receive good knowledge, and teachers will fulfill their official duties with dignity.
We are currently preparing for a post-pandemic period. Of course, after the vaccine is received, we will put this period behind us. As you know, Azerbaijan is currently in talks with several companies on vaccine delivery to our country. Of course, the developed vaccine must pass all testing stages and receive international certificates. After that, once the vaccine reaches Azerbaijan, I am sure we will return to everyday life, including returning to the conventional education process.
Despite the pandemic's consequences, the economic downturn and decline in oil revenues, we continue to build schools and universities. It includes the fact that not a single social project has seen termination. As you know, in 2019 and 2020, we provided citizens with a sizeable social package. This year, the government provided support to almost 5 million Azerbaijan citizens, and this support continues to this day.
As for the construction of schools, I can say that 147 schools are due for construction this year. Most of them have already been built and made ready for the Day of Knowledge. Several new schools will open before the end of this year. I should also note that 45 out of 147 schools were built on the Heydar Aliyev Foundation initiative. For 17 years now, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation has been doing much work in this area. The construction of new schools in Azerbaijan has gained momentum within the framework of the "New School for a Reinvigorating Azerbaijan" program launched by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation.
In the last two to three years, we have been building modular schools in small villages. This year, we will ensure the construction of 60 modular schools. Thus, about 150 schools are under construction and renovation this year alone. I should also mention that over the past 17 years, almost 3,700 schools have been built and entirely renovated in Azerbaijan. It constitutes the overwhelming majority of our school fund because there are currently about 4,500 schools in Azerbaijan, of which 3,700 have received a completely new appearance and overhauled.
At the same time, we constructed buildings for higher educational institutions this year. In June, I attended the commissioning of a 22.000 square meters new facility for Ganja State Agrarian University in Ganja. Azerbaijan State Economic University's new facility was put into operation. The building's area is 13,000 square meters. Two newly commissioned ADA University facilities are 35.000 square meters. Thus, in just a year, new buildings of three universities with a combined area of 70.000 square meters have been made available. Of course, it requires significant funds, and we do that because the funds allocated for education are funds earmarked for the future.
In 2004, I said that we need to turn "black gold" into human capital, and we did this. Not only has the material and technical infrastructure of education been strengthened in Azerbaijan in recent years, and all our higher educational institutions are based in renovated buildings today, but also the quality of education has improved.
It is a crucial issue, and we see it in various areas. Our schools rank highly in international Olympiads and become winners of such competitions. I can say that interest in the teacher's profession has been restored and growing, and numbers manifest that. Every year, more and more young people choose to be teachers. Many of our young people scoring high results in entrance exams want to become teachers because their employment conditions have improved. They work in excellent schools and universities, their salaries increase, and teachers passing a diagnostic evaluation receive high salaries. Of course, this justifies young people's desire to become teachers. Also, the teaching profession has always been one of the most respected in Azerbaijan.
I am delighted that we are revitalizing this profession's prestige. It will also contribute to an increase in the number of competent and knowledgeable people in Azerbaijan in the future because its intellectual potential will undoubtedly determine the successful development of any country in the modern world. It would be enough to review developed countries' experiences and ask why these countries are considered developed. It is thanks to knowledge, competence and technology. It is the developed countries that are now inventing and offering new technologies to the world. Many of these countries do not have natural resources. Therefore, the development of any country is not measured by the abundance of natural resources. In the future, this will manifest itself even more clearly. So the funds invested in education are funds invested in each country's future, independence, and security.
It is no coincidence that the amount of funds allocated for education in Azerbaijan is the second largest, among other budget expenses. If we were not at war, it would be in the first place because our largest expenditure is defense today. And this is only natural. In other words, this in itself serves as an indicator, a manifestation of our policy, and reflects our intentions. I am glad that today our youth is attracted to knowledge. They must be knowledgeable and competent to run our country in the future. Our tomorrow will be in the hands of children and students going to schools and universities today. Their knowledge and competence will, of course, determine the fate of our country. In the meantime, I must specifically note that our children and youth must be brought up in the spirit of patriotism, in the national spirit, based on national values – traditional Azerbaijani values. Of course, the role of the family is of paramount importance. Meanwhile, teachers in all schools must educate students in the national spirit, based on traditional values.
Today, under the pretext of globalization, we see manifestations of big politics – some external circles poison young people's minds and lead them astray. People come across false information, slander, and messages of a provocative nature. Sometimes young people cannot distinguish between accurate and false information. Therefore, a lot depends on the teachers. We should protect our children and teenagers from the "values" that run counter to national customs and traditions. Our children should be attached to the Motherland and nation, hold dear our independence, be brought up in the national spirit, in the spirit of patriotism, defend and preserve the national customs and traditions we have safeguarded for centuries. If this is the case, Azerbaijan will continue to follow the path of independence and development.
As an independent country today, we have made great strides. In any sphere, the Azerbaijani people see the advantages of independence. Azerbaijan is a dignified country today, acting as such in the international arena. Azerbaijan is a free country and our citizens live in freedom. In the economic sphere, Azerbaijan is a developing country with a powerful army. We have achieved all this during the period of independence. Today, Azerbaijan is among a handful of countries that carry out a completely independent policy – both external and domestic. This policy enjoys the support of the Azerbaijani people. I feel it all the time, every day. This support gives me additional strength. Relying on it, we confidently lead Azerbaijan forward. Our children and youth need to lead the country along this path in the future – the way of independence. The Azerbaijani people must never depend on anyone in the future, so that we never fall under anyone's influence. As I said, knowledge, competence, patriotism, national spirit and dignity play the central role.
I am glad that today's Azerbaijani youth meets precisely these high criteria. I am sure that these positive trends will continue. Our children and youth, having acquired knowledge and become qualified professionals, will continue to serve the Motherland as worthy citizens and contribute to our overall development.
I congratulate you on the start of the new academic year again and wish you success!