The birth of a new school in Kyrgyzstan
"I can hardly wait to go back to school in my own area. Every day I pass by the old chaikhana [tea house], I see the construction getting better and better. This is the best thing to happen since Hamza School burnt down in June."
The traditional tea house, Chaikhana is being converted to a school for children who used to go to Hamza School, destroyed during the violence in June 2010. The children see their mothers cleaning the building, and their fathers painting and rearranging the inside. Walls have been knocked down to make classrooms for 250 children. Even Adyl Turgunov, ex principal of Hamza School, is joining the workers in carrying heavy sacks inside the building. Now he is principal at Lenin School, but often travels a long way to help the community who lost their school. The whole community is participating in reconstruction in so-called hasher way - voluntary work, which is usual in Central Asia.
It is always very crowded there. When we came, Minavat Haksimova (12) was jumping with excitement on the stairs. Children from neighbouring houses were there, along with others who were studying elsewhere while waiting for the reconstruction of their new school to be finished. They all want to see with their own eyes what is going on.
“Oh, are we getting a new school soon?” asks Hikmatill (12) with hope in his voice. He was a pupil at Hamza School for seven years. But after it was destroyed during the June events, he has not enjoyed travelling to a distant school where he has no friends. Some of his playmates left for Russia, other for Kazakhstan, and the rest are spread out in schools in Osh. He wants to be close to his parents, and has been helping them this autumn. The little boy Biloliddin (6) beside him says that he will start school together with Hikmatill when it opens and says they play football together.
While talking, a couple of boys are returning from school number 47. Last year they attended Hamza School. Even if they miss their friends and the teachers of Hamza School, they understand that going to school is crucial for their future.
“When this school building is ready, we will change school immediately”, exclaims Kosimov Rustam (17) with a big smile, pointing at the building under reconstruction. “I live nearby. It takes five minutes to walk to this building”. “And for me, only two minutes”, adds Muhammedaziz Masadykov (7).
“My biggest wish is to start school in this building”, emphasizes Kamola Sulajmanova (9). She was studying at the Karl Marx School in Osh City. After the June events, her mother was scared and transferred her daughter to the nearest mono-ethnic school in their locality, like many other parents in this area.
A man approached us and started talking about his three daughters; one of them lives with a disability. He is reluctant to send her to a distant school. Now he sees an opportunity to enroll his 6 year old daughter in this new school, as she has to be carried, and it is nearby. Women in long dresses and colorful scarves covering their heads and men with fur hats and long black coats are teachers, parents and grandparents. Dilbar Teshaeva (60) has been an English teacher at Hamza School for 40 years. She knows all the parents and children in this area. At present she is a teacher at Lenin School together with 20 other former Hamza School teachers.
“I will come back right away and teach these children”, remarks Dilbar, clearly touched. All the furniture, text-books and documents such as diplomas, CVs and archives were burnt. However now she is more optimistic. Another lady, Alisa Mirkamilova, has been a teacher for 30 years at Hamza School both for parents and their children in this community. Since they lost their school, she and other Hamza teachers have been giving lessons to the youngest children in their homes this autumn. For Alisa it is a pleasure to assume responsibility and supervise the new school, designated for former Hamza School children.
Local people complimented Turgunov for his efforts in opening a school in this area. Being the principal of Lenin School, he is going to head this school as well as the Filial of Lenin School. However they are still concerned that the building lacks furniture.
Jonathan Veitch, UNICEF Representative in Kyrgyzstan, reassured everybody that UNICEF would provide school desks and chairs for 250 elementary school children. This school furniture is already waiting at the former site of a temporary learning space, where eleven UNICEF tents were dismantled in November. It was used by 650 children from another burnt school, Tolstoy, when they studied in tents this autumn until they were transferred to Sharipova School. The principal of Tolstoy school was also there and confirmed: “Of course. They are also our children!”
Veitch also shared UNICEF’ plans to provide school equipment and finalize the school building, including 12 latrines and water supply facilities, to ensure a rapid start and access to education for all the children of the burnt Hamza School. The optimism and joy revived and the community joined in thanksgivings and prayers.
Aashild Eliassen, UNICEF, Education Sector