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- Opening Ceremony of the Covered Outdoor Learning Area -

On Sunday 18th of November the sun did shine and so did the students of AGBU Alexander Primary School at the annual Armenian Cultural Day & Fair. The school put on one of the best cultural displays the Armenian community of Sydney has ever seen. Over 600 members of the community came to not only witness a great cultural exhibition, but to also see a wonderful student performance that celebrated ‘500 Years of Armenian Printing’ and the city of Yerevan being chosen as the World Book Capital 2012 by UNESCO. It was with great pride that the community joined with these celebrations halfway across the world, coinciding with Australia’s National Year of Reading.

From the comments and feedback received, it was made clear that the exhibition set in the school’s Gemjian Hall was a wonderful display of Armenian culture with meticulous attention to detail. One comment states: “Amazing! Great work, well prepared and well organized, bringing back the glorious past history of Armenia and Armenians. Thank you!” Visitors who came to the exhibition saw a great showcase with a rich display of historical facts and artefacts thanks to the support of the community. A collection of very rare books were received dating as far back as 1646. The rare Armenian book called ‘Hagiography of Saints’ was printed in Amsterdam, Holland (Netherlands) over 366 years ago! While the largest and heaviest book on display was called ‘Liturgical Services of the Armenian Church’, printed in Venice in 1686.

The cultural day program included the official opening ceremony for the ‘Covered Outdoor Learning Area’. Among the distinguished guests, who had come to join in the blessing and unveiling of the plaque were The Hon Bronwyn Bishop MP (Federal Member for Mackellar), The Hon Jonathan O'Dea MP (State Member for Davidson), Dr Stepan Kerkyasharian AO (Chairperson, Community Relations Commission), Councillor Artin Etmekdjian (City of Ryde), Fr Norayr Patanian and Fr Avetis Hambardzumyan (Armenian Apostolic Church of Holy Resurrection) Rev Hagop Sarkissian (Armenian Evangelical Church of Sydney), Mr Toros Boghossian (Chairman, AGBU Sydney Chapter), Mr & Mrs Varoojan and Sylvia Iskenderian (Alexander School Benefactors & Representative of the Republic of Nagorno Kharapagh in Australia). Also present were representatives of the Armenian Apostolic Church Diocese and Council, Social Democrat Hunchakian party, Armenian ‘Nor Serount’ (New Generation) Cultural Association, Hamazkaine Armenian Educational and Cultural Society, Galstaun College, German International School Sydney, Sydney Japanese International School, John Colet School, AGBU Alex Manoogian Saturday School and representatives of Armenian media and publications.

Alexander school founding members, graduates, parents, students, business partners and members of the community were welcomed by Mr Toros Boyadjian who ran the proceeding for the afternoon. After the national and school anthems were performed by the Alexander students, the head of school Mr Manoug Demirjian welcomed the guests and outlined the Australian Government’s support in the construction of the new facility. He said: “In 2009, the Australian Government promised to deliver a $16.2 billion boost to the ‘Education Revolution’ over the following three financial years with its Building the Education Revolution (BER) program. The two main components of the BER program that related to our school included:

1. Primary Schools for the 21st Century (P21): To build or renew large scale infrastructure in all primary schools, including libraries, halls or covered outdoor learning areas.

2. National School Pride (NSP): To refurbish and renew existing infrastructure and build minor infrastructure.

At the time, Alexander school was able to secure a $250,000 grant for the P21 program. The project included the building of a Covered Outdoor Learning Area (COLA). The COLA was to be a covered basketball court which was to also serve as a multipurpose hall or facility. The school also received a $50,000 grant for the NSP program. This meant that in total $300,000 was provided to support, make a difference and to improve teaching and learning settings. The magnitude and scope of the government’s capital investment was unprecedented and this capital improvement was the largest since the construction of Alexander school over 22 years ago. We couldn’t be happier that we are able to not only construct a new facility but also renovate, maintain and improve our school. Most importantly, as a school community we felt valued and had the finances to support the great learning we have always done at our magnificent school.”

Mr Demirjian stated that the NSP program was completed during the 2009 and as a result the ‘Digital Revolution’ reached Alexander school. As part of this project, the improvement to the computer network was an integral factor in the successful implementation of other minor capital upgrades, such as the introduction of IWB in every classroom. The school hall was also refurbished and in total these improvements lead to better teaching and learning outcomes for students. The construction for the COLA had commenced in July 2011 and the project was issued the occupancy certificate towards the end of the year. With the support of sponsors, improvements were made to the project with an additional storage shed constructed adjacent to the COLA. The large storage area will be used to store concert props and costumes, sporting equipment, tables and chairs. The COLA has also been fitted with a demountable stage and basketball equipment.

After thanking everyone who provided support and assistance in the implementation of this project, Mr Demirjian invited Mr Serop Aslanyan to speak on behalf of the School Board. Mr Aslanyan, who is also a graduate of Alexander school, once again thanked the Government for its support and outlined the achievements of the school over the recent years and the important role it plays in the community. He invited everyone to continue their support and commitment to the school, to ensure this magnificent educational institution is able to serve the needs of the Armenian community for many years to come.

Following a statement of congratulations that was read on behalf of the Australian Government, Mr Toros Boghossian and Mrs Sossie Giragosian, chairpersons of the AGBU Sydney Chapter and Board were joined with the head of school Mr Manoug Demirjian to help unveil the plaque. Father Norayr Patanian was then invited to bless the new facility with a special service and prayer.

The program for the day continued with a special school presentation dedicated to 500 Years of Armenian Printing. There were also guest performances by the ‘Nor Serount’ Dance Group, the Hamazkaine Armenian Sydney Dance Company and the Armenian Apostolic Church Youth Choir. With the event getting bigger and better every year, we can only look forward to next year!

More photos are available on the Facebook page of Alexander School.

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