By David Mdzinarishvili
Bacho Tsiklauri is a normal nine-year-old boy, no different from any other child his age, and he wouldn’t stand out in a schoolyard among other third-grade students. But in his school he does stick out because there are no others: Bacho is the only child at elementary school in the Georgian village of Makarta.
I heard about Bacho by chance, and I wanted to meet him to find out what it is like to be the only kid in the classroom and the only one in the school.
The journey from Georgia’s capital Tbilisi to Makarta is 100 kilometers (62 miles), including 80 kilometers (50 miles) on one of Georgia’s main roads. The remaining 20 kilometers (12 miles) is on a dirt track through the Gudamakari gorge, and covering this leg of the trip took me about the same amount of time as the first stretch. This is the road that separates Makarta from the rest of the country.
In the village, which stands on the slopes of the gorge, you can see an abandoned two-story house, which was once the pride of its owners. It is one of several abandoned homes, left behind by those who went to look for a better life in more developed parts of the country. Now the community is home to around 30 people including four children: three older ones who attend high school in a neighboring village four kilometers (two miles) away, and Bacho, the youngest, who goes to the local primary school.
The first time I came to see Bacho I arrived at 7a.m. and found him awake and preparing breakfast. Afterwards, he got on with his homework along with his mother Lela and older brother Dato, who goes to school in the nearby village. Dato needs an hour to get to school, so he leaves the house much earlier than his brother.