“You Want to End Conflict, Ignorance, and Poverty? Start a Children’s Online Newspaper”


See what the University of Irvine California wrote about the Roddy Scott Foundations project to bring Journalistic skills to the children of Pankisi and start the process of literate self advocacy.

In the Pankisi Valley of Georgia, students in a foundation-sponsored English Language program are enriching their language study by generating an online English language newspaper – Pankisi Times. Since the paper’s inception, student engagement in producing the Times has served as an example of the type of “self-generated learning” associated with Sugata Metra and his “Hole in the Wall” experiments in India. By researching and writing articles for the newspaper, Pankisi youth are not only improving their language acquisition and gaining computer skills but also distancing themselves from the effects of recent conflict while countering their geographic isolation.

The Valley
Pankisi Valley from Roddy Scott Education Center

The Pankisi Valley, situated in North Georgia, bordering Chechnya, is inhabited primarily by ethnic Chechens – called Kists – who came to the valley in the 19th century, and by recent refugees from the wars in Chechnya. The Russian-Chechen Wars (1994-1996 and 1999-2009) encouraged not only an influx of refugees from the intense fighting that spread throughout Chechnya but also the intrusion of Chechen fighters and foreign militants looking for a place to train and regroup. Refugees and militants both brought their fundamentalist Islamic beliefs, with Wahhabism from Saudi Arabia introduced into the historically Sunni Muslim community previously identified with the Sufist branch linked to Central Asia.
By 2002 the Valley had gained an international reputation for kidnapping, drug-dealing, and arms-trading, with governments, including Georgia, banning travel to the region. This also was the year when freelance British war journalist Roddy Scott, in the company of Chechens, was killed by Russian troops.

Introducing an English Language Program: A Memorium and a Counterbalance
Roddy Scott Foundation

Five years after Roddy Scott was killed, his parents and friends chose to honor his memory by establishing the Roddy Scott Foundation to provide English language instruction for children in the Pankisi Valley. It was the intention of Mr. Scott’s parents, Robin and Stina, and Vlad Lozinski, former international news journalist, that participation in the foundation’s language program would stimulate children’s interest in the outside world and thus counter conflict and ignorance. Local teachers, who were provided summer training at the American Academy of Tbilisi, were solicited to teach an initial class of 45 students.
As the program progressed, it gained support from private individuals and organizations, with the embassies of The Netherlands and Estonia, among others, donating computers and helping with building restoration.

Emergence of Pankisi Times
As students became more familiar with using computers, they expressed a desire to “do something” with their developing language skills. At the same time, Mr. Lozinski was observing that enthusiasm among the English language teachers seemed to have plateaued. With encouragement from Mr. Lozinski, students decided to create an online newspaper, in English, and thus Pankisi Times was added to their language study activities. The students selected their own topics, conducted their own research, and composed their own articles in the English language class. Mr. Lozinski agreed to serve as grammar and spelling editor; but, as he explained during his 2013 TEDx presentation in Tbilisi, he provides minimum correction in order to maintain the “student voice.”

Presenting at TEDx Tbilisi

Observing a Sunday Session

Currently, the Roddy Scott Foundation is providing English language instruction to about 200 young people – elementary through high school – from 12:30 to 2:30 or 2:30 to 4:30 on Saturdays and Sundays.

Fourteen of the more advanced students (generally 11 to 14 years old) contribute to Pankisi Times. During their afternoon sessions, they alternate language instruction, where they write news articles by hand, and time on the computers, where they type in their stories.
Once the articles are written, the students send the articles to Mr. Lozinski (who may be in London, Sydney, Warsaw, or Paris) via a radio link (dongle) since the Valley is not yet wired. He reviews the articles and establishes a time to Skype with the students while they are in the Saturday or Sunday classes. During the Skype session that I observed, Mr. Lozinski suggested grammar corrections and then challenged the student to think about how they might have been changed by producing an online newspaper. Recently, I noticed that one of the articles in the latest edition of Pankisi Times is titled “The Result of my Learning.”

Since the first edition of Pankisi Times, students have continued to select their own topics for the newspaper articles, which, on the day of my visit, included Forests in our Valley, the Star Spangled Banner, Environmental Pollution, Sights in my Village, the Importance of Friends, and the Power of Ads. Mr. Lozinski commented that he has observed an evolution in content since the first edition, from initial articles that reflected adult-influenced themes, to articles about what the students and their friends were thinking, to more recent analyses of global issues – e.g., climate change.
The Roddy Scott Foundation English Language Program and Pankisi Times rely upon donations from private individuals and from foundations and embassies to maintain the program. Aside from expenses associated with servicing donated computers, paying English instructors, and maintaining the facility, the cost of producing an online newspaper is minimal, particularly when considering the benefits. As demonstrated in the Pankisi Valley, an online student newspaper can be an effective means of deepening student engagement in their language learning while incorporating computer skills, stimulating interest in issues beyond the immediate environment, and connecting communities with people and places in the world beyond.

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About Pankisi

Welcome to the home of the Roddy Scott Foundation- the Pankisi Valley. The Pankisi is arguably one of the most beautiful places in Georgia, with the Alazani river bed being framed by the sharp incline of the North Caucasus mountains, the top of the valley leading through the mountains to, eventually, Russia. T
The Pankisi is located in North East Georgia, in the Kakheti region of Georgia, known for its fine food and green landscapes. 40 minutes away from Telavi, a key wine growing region of Georgia and the capital of Kakheti, Pankisi occupies the end of the road into the mountains from Akmeta town. The Pankisi is made up of a variety of small villages, running roughly in a ribbon on two sides of the Alazani river. The largest of these are Duisi, Jokolo, Birkiani, Tsinubani and Omalo. The main administration buildings of the region are located in Duisi.
Employment opportunities in the remote valley are scarce, and subsistence farming plays a key part in the survival of the population. At the top end of the valley is a small honey farm, an adventure park and a Chinese Funded electro power station (manned internally), that makes the most of the waterfalls in the region. However, the Pankisi does have a vibrant internal arts and music scene, with the Kist people paying special attention to keeping their traditions alive despite their separation from Chechnya.
The Pankisi Gorge is home to approximately 13,000 people, the majority of whom are Kists. Often confused with the Chechens, the Kists are one of three ethnicities within the Vaynakh ethnicity, (Kists, Chechens and Ingush). Originally both Christian and Muslim, the Kists several hundred years ago took up this land in Georgia. They migrated from Chechnya, over the steep North Caucasus, to escape blood feuds, and to find more fertile land on other side of the mountains. Over the years, others have joined the community in the Pankisi for similar reasons, and the slight difference in the evolved Chechen language and traditions (that have arguably been kept more strictly in the Pankisi) has led to their distinction from the Chechens.
Kists have often played large parts in Georgian society, and the majority of the Pankisi Valley speak Kist (Chechen), Georgian and Russian with equal fluency. Although there have been moments of conflict between the Kists and the Georgians, history has more examples of the two ethnicities peacefully coexisting, and modern Kists can be found within the government of Georgia, the civil service and within the Georgian education system. However, most Kists still have very strong links to their homeland, Chechnya. The majority of Kists have connections and/or family there, so many Kists spend significant amounts of time in and out of both Grozny and Moscow in their lives, and are in constant contact with their Chechen cousins. You will not spend long in the Pankisi to see a child with ЧЕЧНЯ (Chechnya) written on the back of a fake Adidas tracksuit!
There remains a strong family and clan-based culture both in the Pankisi and in Chechnya, that brings with it a strong code of conduct and honour. These codes are adhered to broadly throughout the valley and not only address matters of crime and how to deal with it, but to hospitality and marriage rituals. There exists a council of Elders that oversees the valley’s clan based conduct, and often these laws have to be negotiated both with state and newer and stronger religious laws and demands.
Kists are Islamic, and traditionally are Sufis, a mystical form of Islam often assimilating tribal and cultural traditions. Over previous years in the Pankisi, more radical and strong strains of Islam have started to take the place Sufi Islam, with new Mosques opening and Arabic being taught widely throughout the valley. However, regardless of the strain of Islam, the majority of Kists still adhere strongly to the rules of their religion; Ramadan is widely followed, Eid is well celebrated and the mosques are well attended.
Many Kists, though the generous refugee status provided by some European countries, have had the opportunity to spend time abroad, and a lot of the local wealth is based on remittances, from Austria, Denmark or Germany particularly. However, due to the homing instinct of the Pankisi population, many go for a short while and then return to their family and friends in the valley.

Pankisi Traditions
The Pankisi Gorge has a variety of different traditions and celebrations every year.
While the majority of the residents adhere to Ramadan and thus celebrate Eid with great enjoyment, the summer also brings with it a horserace known as the ‘Duisi Derby’. It has been known that the winning riders and horses of the Duisi Derby have been taken on by scouts who attend the event, both in Chechnya, elsewhere in Georgia and abroad.

Watch this Video to see the Horserace in Action


Other events include Pankisi day, where the community, funded by the Chechen refugee Council, showcase their achievements and culture, through dancing and wresting competitions.

There is also a small but active music and arts scene in the valley. Chechen dance classes are available and music groups from Pankisi have been emotionally welcomed onto the stage at some of Georgia’s largest events, including a very teary reception on ‘Georgia’s Got Talent’.

Pankisi Recent History
The last 15 years have thrown the Pankisi Gorge into the spotlight for not overwhelmingly positive reasons. Throughout the two Chechen wars, 1994-1996 and 1999-2000 respectively, and the turbulent times after, many Chechens fleeing the often indiscriminate violence made their way, often on foot, over the mountains to the Pankisi Gorge, seeking refuge from relatives and friends in Georgia. In 2000 it was thought that the population of the Pankisi Gorge had doubled due to the refugee influx.
However, with the refugees came a stronger link to the war effort, I which the Pankisi Gorge was already a part. Guerrilla battalions of Kist and Chechen fighters were using the relative safety of the Gorge to recover, train and prepare for their future battles. Among them, covering the Chechen struggle from the Pankisi Gorge, was the late Roddy Scott (see about Roddy). With the Georgian government unable or unwilling to do anything about the Pankisi’s involvement in the valley, the situation their rapidly deteriorated, becoming a haven for arms and human trafficking and kidnapping. It took the world’s attention in 2002, and the involvement of Russian pressure and American training, to pacify the extreme situation, in which the residents were scared to go to their own doorways. Many of the Chechen fighters and refugees still remain in the valley, although many are also gaining refugee status in Finland or Austria.
However, the Pankisi is still treated with distrust in Georgia and the residents sometimes find themselves the subject of discrimination throughout the country. Recently the Pankisi has found itself in the headlines again, due to the notable number of young men who have joined radical movements on the Syrian battlefields, often in very high and profitable positions. Although traditionally Islamic, in some parts of the Pankisi Gorge the newer, more radical, Salafist form of Islam has started to become popular, and children are now learning Arabic alongside their English, Russian, Georgian and Kist.
Despite this, Kists from the Pankisi, with their English in hand, are entering the best national universities, studying a variety of subjects, from languages to international relations, to becoming airline pilots. Kists still play a large, positive, role in Georgian civic society and will continue to do so in the future

Cultural Corner

Hampsthwaite book fayre CANCELLED

The Roddy Scott Foundation will be having a book sale at Hampsthwaite Village Hall,

Forthcoming events, Latest NEWS, Support Us, Uncategorized

Fund Raising Events!

Lunch Time Event 12.30 Sunday November 15th 2015
North Stainley Village Hall

The Roddy Scott Foundation
will hold an Antiques Road Show type Event
to be conducted by

David Elstob of Thomas Watson Auctioneers, Darlington
RSF lunchtime event

Tickets £20 will include Lunch and one item for Valuation by David Elstob.

Tickets available from Stina Scott, Throstle Nest Farm, Summerbridge, HG3 4JS
Tel 01423-780449 email info@roddyscott.co.uk
Reg Charity No.1123327

Ticket application

I should like to order ……….tickets for this Event on Sunday Nov 15th at £20 each

Please send cheques payable to The Roddy Scott Foundation together with SAE to

Stina Scott, Throstle Nest Farm, Summerbridge, HG3 4JS
Reg Charity No.1123327

Forthcoming events, Latest NEWS, Uncategorized

Letter from a former pupil. Beka Umarashvili

To Roddy Scott foundation

I am happy with the fact that Roddy Scott Foundation still operates and actively encourages our talented generation in Pankisi. If by chance I happen to hear or see news of this Foundation I still feel a sense of pride and I think of all the happy days that I spent here. I can cry tears of joy over my happy life that was built on the foundation. It is impossible not to use those things that you received and learned from the Foundation. It is knowledge that represents your power, and I was gifted by this power of education to go forward in life . For some reason we were chosen by American Academies, where we were able to keep up our English, and get sociable in the English language medium . We had an unforgettable time in the summer school where we learned English with Georgians by the initiative of the Roddy Scott Foundation. This year we had national exams in different subjects and one of them was foreign language, so the English courses that I had in the foundation really helped me to do the best and get more points than ever! And what’s more during the time of learning we were able to get more friends, get closer with them; also I met foreigners, who helped me to find my way in a career in the future. The foundation is really helpful for all of the students, to get a higher education in English, also to become more sociable in the sense of engaging in the wider world and more talented! Lots of students who thought that they couldn’t do anything at all, well you know – the foundation helped them to find themselves in this society and make life better than they could imagine ever. Thanks Roddy Scott foundation for giving the best teachers, students, and for the best director and for the best chances we ever had to go into life confident of our future lives. Marsho!

Beka Umarashvili

Student of Robakidze state University (Tourism administration)

Latest NEWS, News from the RSF Teaching Project in the Pankisi, Georgia

With thanks to the McLain association for children

We have to give a huge thanks for the enormously generous grant of $25000 from the McLain Association for Children, which has provided financial stability over the last year for the continuation of the Foundation over the last year. They have made the schools running viable and we hope the results are proof of the worthiness of this cause that education and education and education ( to paraphrase a certain famous leader) is the only route out of poverty to a brighter future. With many thanks again for your enormous generosity and foresight.

RSF trustees

Supporters and donors

Recent successes in national exams

These are the impressive results of the Foundations first batch of school students who have performed so well in their national exams in written and spoken English.
the results speak for themselves and for the hard work and effort of the pupils and the many generous individuals and donors who mae this venture possible. They lead the way we hope for future generations to be inspired to better themselves through the old fashioned values of hard work and pride in educational achievement. The early signs are promising and a great foundation for the future.

Sometimes for the media and the outside world Pankisi turns into the place from where only bad things can you expect, but my generation will be able to change your opinion about this very tiny place, RSF student are the first who who will manage it through the education and hardworking. They have a very big success in United National Exams. Especially in English.

The first RSF course graduates participated in the exams. So our students results are:

1. Umarashvili Beka 96
2. Kushanashvili Albina 91
3. Duishvili Zahra 89
4. Pareulidze Linda 86
5. Khangoshvili Rumisa 84
6. Kavtarashvili Mariana 82
7. Baghakashvili Fatima 81
8. Kavtarashvili Arbi 76
9. Khangoshvili Omar 74
10. Mutoshvili Beslan 72
11. Gaurgashvili Zalina 71
12 Kavtarashvili Malika 70

‘We were looking forward to hearing the response to our results, and we are so very proud of our friends, and think that for all of Pankisi students its a perfect example for future students to follow our way. One may say we could have achieved higher grades but for us children communicating in Chechen learning Georgian at school and learning English as third or fourth language, I think its great success.’

P.S. Congratulation all of RSF first graduates became students. Love you all.

By: Maia Bagakashvili, Feride Kavtarashvili, Malika Margoshvili

Latest NEWS


Updating this website to bring friends and supporters upto date with the plans and goings on of the Roddy Scott Foundation should start in earnest this autumn. We will be show casing the achievements of the Foundations pupils who have performed outstandingly well in National exams in Georgia in written and spoken English.
We shall be looking at new ideas for projects and of course seeking funding and partners to make those aims a reality.
Sadly we have lost a trustee due to personal demands of work but hope that her departure will not be a permanent one, and will act as a spur to action!
Thank you Helen!

Latest NEWS

Sale of BRAND NEW books! ‘Orwell Prize’ entries

October 18th at North Stainley Village Hall, HG4 3JT;  approx 400 books to select from; great opportunity to buy lots of Christmas presents at bargain prices from only £1! Time 11am to 4pm

Past events

Sir Rodric Braithwaite, GCMG in conversation with Victoria Schofield

The Roddy Scott Foundation is delighted to welcome Sir Rodric and Victoria.

Join us for a buffet supper followed by a talk and question time.

on Saturday November, 1st at 6.45pm

Tickets £15

For Tickets and information  call Stina on 01423 780449

Or or send cheque and SAE to

Throstle Nest Farm,

Location North Stainley Village Hall, HG4 3JT


Past events