All we need is a peaceful sky over our heads
"The world is so big, And we are so small, But all that we need, Is a peaceful sky over our heads.”
OSH, Kyrgyzstan, April 2011 - This is the song sung by children that rebounds from the school hall throughout the whole school, and escapes through the open windows to Amir Timur city district on the east side of Osh city.
Today is a festival in the local school, celebrating deepening of friendship, mutual understanding and accord between people of different ethnicities.
An exhibition is on display in the corner of children’s pictures about the cultures of different countries; on the stage of the school hall children of all ages appear, wearing the national costumes of Kyrgyzstan and of peoples around the world.
Parents, teachers and pupils not participating in the concert are congregated in the assembly hall. “Everyone can become tolerant,” reads a slogan on a central wall area while, in the depths of the hall, tables are full of dishes from different countries – India, Great Britain, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia – all prepared by children.
“Before the 2010 events, we had this sort of festival as well,” says Gulnara Abdullaeva, the school director. “But in the past such events were held as formalities, for the sake of appearances. And never before did words about friendship sound as heartfelt as now: people didn’t put so much of their souls into them. This is because lots of families here suffered during the conflict. The most important thing now, for children, their parents and the whole country is peace and stability.”
The school in Amir Timur is one of 585 schools in Osh and Osh province which received grants from DFID in the framework of the Welcome to School National Initiative of Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Education and Science and UNICEF, which began in Kyrgyzstan in August 2010.
More than 240,000 children, about 12,000 parents and representatives of local communities, as well as administrators from all the participating schools have been involved in the UNICEF project to develop friendship between children of various ethnicities and ages and with different interests.
Sporting events, creative and topical educational projects and socially useful initiatives implemented by schoolchildren in cooperation with teachers, parents and activists from local communities have been planned and implemented by the children themselves, without any influence from outside.
“It is important to channel the energy of children to productive activities,” says Avazbek Khadjibullaev, director of a school in Kara Suu district and a mentor of the project across 58 schools. “That’s why we are carrying out these projects together. The next step will be to hold a friendship festival at district level,” he says.
Further plans to strengthen accord and mutual understanding between children include the hosting of summer camps for schoolchildren from various ethnic groups, a widening of parental participation, and also the implementation of similar programmes in all the schools in Jalal-Abad province.
written by Olga Grebennikova, Media Liaison Officer, UNICEF in Kyrgyzstan