|© UNICEF Kyrgyzstan 2007/Dubanaev|
|A new school in the village of Minoruk will allow children to continue living with their families while getting an education.|
By Galina Solodunova
MINORUK, Kyrgyzstan, 17 July 2007 – With the closest secondary school 16 km away, 10-year-old children in Minoruk have been forced to choose between the comfort of home and the importance of education. Now, for the first time in the history of the small village, children will not have to leave their families in order to attend school.
“We are lucky. We won’t have to leave our village and live with our relatives to study at school,” said one young student.
“Now we can stay at home with our mums,” said another eager child.
In fact, the coordinator of the UNICEF-supported Community Management of Education Project, Jyldyz Duishenova, was almost knocked over by an excited throng of normally polite Kyrgyz youth at the opening of the new school, which stands adjacent to the primary school.
'Breaking the bonds of our family'
The village of Minoruk was founded about 15 years ago by ethnic Kyrgyz looking for a better future after the collapse of the Soviet Union. At that time, a two-room shepherd’s cottage housed the only primary school and no resources were available for a secondary school.
When village children turned 10, their parents often sent them to stay with relatives who lived closer to the secondary school. The children only returned home on weekends, if at all. Those who could not be placed with relatives usually had to drop out of school.
“When my kids come home for the weekend from my sister’s house in Samarkandek village, they feel like guests,” said Enehan, a mother of four. “I feel that it’s really breaking the bonds of our family.”
Village Education Group formed
In May 2006, parents and community leaders decided that the schooling situation in Minoruk was untenable and had to change. They approached UNICEF for help.
Starting with the primary school, UNICEF provided new furniture to replace the old metal workshop benches and cast-off chairs. They also supported the creation of a Village Education Group.
It was this group, along with UNICEF, that initiated a proposal to a government agency for permission to construct the additional school. The proposal was successful, and thanks to funding from the Italian National Committee of UNICEF, a new school for children in grades four through nine will be completed in September.
Remaining obstacles to overcome
There are still a wide range of issues to be tackled, however. From the low quality of existing education to the lack of proper shoes and clothing, many obstacles still prevent Kyrgyz children from realizing their right to education.
The parents of Minoruk now try to include every community member in the education process. The village even has ambitious plans to open a modern school complete with clubs, gyms and libraries.
The quality education and social services they envision for their community will start with their new secondary school – and with children who no longer have to choose between education and their families.