As the Armenian-American writer and humanitarian William Saroyan (1908-81) once said, children are “the only race of the earth, the race of man.” Indeed, young children exude a sincerity and innocence when expressing themselves – often captured so well in their drawings and paintings. They can be extremely creative – whether at painting, drawing, music, or performance – and especially before the age of 10 to 11 years, according to tutors.
Therefore, as part of our broad public consultations in designing the World Bank’s upcoming Systemic Country Diagnostic for Armenia, we decided to hold a creative contest for young Armenians.
First, we went to Yerevan’s School No. 19 and asked fourth and fifth graders to describe for us how they envisioned their “future Armenia”. To our great delight, the kids submitted over 100 drawings for consideration by a jury composed of their tutors.
It’s no surprise that kids’ drawings are often used in psychology as a tool to measure such things as emotional intelligence, confidence, and identity. Indeed, their drawings can be candid reflections of life as they see it, incorporating their unique observations of the world around them. Each drawing, it seems, is like a snowflake – no two are alike.
So, what did we learn from the school children’s drawings in Yerevan?
In the drawing captions we see their amazing vision of Armenia, such as: “Armenia is a painting drawn by the Master's brush,” “Buildings, where untroubled people sleep,” and “Armenia’s flying cars!”
You can see some of the kids’ great artwork here, as well as a video which captures the drawing process at the school.
We also conducted a similar activity among university students, addressing them three questions and asking to share – with one single adjective per each – the first thought that came to mind regarding the future of Armenia.
This particular exercise involved 64 students across various universities in Armenia, with 29 participants from regions and 35 from the capital Yerevan. 55% of respondents were female and 45% were male. We organized their responses into three “word-clouds” based on weighted percentages … and what do you think they came up with?
Education, poverty, emigration, and uncertainty featured prominently among the responses, alongside impassioned descriptions of Armenia such as bright and magnificent! Despite the challenges facing our country at present, the younger generation – fortunately – believes strongly in the future of their country.
As they say, you are only young once! Children and young people, therefore, deserve special attention and investment if we are to empower and support them in reaching their full potential in life. Listening to their voices and respecting their right to be heard – whether expressed through art or other means – should be at the heart of any country’s policy-making and development goals.
I am more than excited to share with you the ideas and creativity that Armenian kids and youth shared with me and my colleagues I hope you are pleased to see them too!