In August 2008, after years of missed opportunities to secure a lasting peace, Georgian-South Ossetian tensions erupted into all-out war. Tamar Mearakishvili kept a school running against all the odds – a vital link for the children and community.

Conciliation Resources supported Tamar, enabling her to purchase computer equipment and arrange visits with the students to both sides of the conflict environment.

The war lasted a matter of days, but people like Tamar will be picking up the pieces for decades.

During the recent war, many people left Akhalgori. The schools emptied, and after the war I found I was the only member of staff left at our school. I was determined to keep it open but I didn’t have wood to heat the school building, so I held lessons in my house.

I realised that if we let the school shut even for a week it would be almost impossible to re-open it again.

Almost every family in Akhalgori includes both Georgians and Ossetians. Children do not discriminate along ethnic lines – they have no such hang-ups, even since the war.

But our community has been split along other lines, between those who left Akhalgori and those who stayed.

If we cannot stop the migration, Akhalgori will become a ghost town. Although living conditions are tough, there are many reasons to stay and our school is one of them.

Here our children can learn new skills, mix with their peers and broaden their horizons.

In a sense I am grateful for all these difficulties, as overcoming them makes you more confident and resilient. I never believed that I could be so bold, but I have been forced to take a stand for the sake of our children’s future.

Tamar Mearakishvili, School director and activist