By Rob McBride
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, 15 December 2011 – It was one of the noisiest games of the session.
As a team, a group of adolescents raced to guide a long metal rod – supported by just their extended index fingers – down to the ground without dropping it. It was a test of concentration and co-operation, and it was the highlight of the morning at this UNICEF-supported team-building camp at Tashkent’s School No. 66.
|VIDEO: UNICEF correspondent Rob McBride reports on the implementation of the Child-Friendly Schools initiative in Uzbekistan. Watch in RealPlayer|
In preparation for the following academic year, schools buzzed with activities, all pursuing a child-centred approach to learning and development. This leadership programme, for nearly 30 children from nearby schools, was one such activity, empowering children to be leaders involved in school governance.
Children reaching children
The participants were learning fast what it takes to lead.
“A leader should be a very responsible person with a lot of energy,” said 14-year-old Akmal Rajabov. “They should not shout, but should not be soft either.”
Programme organizers selected participants from a number of schools, choosing students with the potential to reach other children.
“I’m the leader in my class, and I conduct lots of seminars for my classmates,” said Iroda Sokijonova, 13. “So I’m going to be holding special sessions to pass on this knowledge.”
|© UNICEF Uzbekistan/2011/Pirozzi|
|Students participate in a team-building exercise, part of a youth leadership programme, at School No. 66 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.|
Promoting child-friendly schools
These child-centred approaches are part of the promising changes in education taking place in Uzbekistan thanks to the introduction of the Child-Friendly Schools (CFS) initiative and thanks to special teachers’ workshops to fine-tune the programme’s implementation.
The CFS model ensures schools provide a quality education and a safe, healthy environment that promotes inclusiveness, tolerance, gender-sensitivity and child empowerment.
In a classroom at the Nukus Pedagogical-Professional College in Karkalpakstan in the far west of the country, teachers were assessing the implementation of the CFS programme in 30 pilot schools. They discussed the achievements of the programme and the gaps that still needed to be filled.
“The child-centred approach is very important,” said College Director Iskander Piniyazov, who oversaw the session, “because it means students and teachers become more like partners, and they both benefit.”
In the neighbouring Amudarya district, another group of teachers was meeting for a similar workshop.
“I know they will go back and share these solutions with their colleagues, so it will have a big impact,” said session leader Tamara Kenjaeva.
|© UNICEF Uzbekistan/2011/Pirozzi|
|Children work in teams during a leadership programme at School No. 66 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.|
These workshops “really get teachers to understand new methods of teaching that are based on child rights,” said Marilyn Hoar, UNICEF chief of education in Uzbekistan. “They’re excited that there’re new methods of doing things.”
Reaching the farthest areas
Over the last decade, many countries have adapted the CFS framework to fit their needs. In Uzbekistan, the CFS programme is being implemented and adapted through a collaboration of the Ministry of Public Education, UNICEF, In-service Teacher Training Institute and other pedagogical institutes.
The programme has been successfully piloted in 1,028 schools in eight regions of the country, including the Republic of Karakalpakstan. Straddling the shrinking Aral Sea, this remote region is one of the most deprived areas of the country, making it essential that children there are not left out.
“We should not leave any single child,” said UNICEF Health Manager Hari Krishna Banskota. “You have to reach to the farthest areas.”
By striving for equity in education, teachers and pupils in Uzbekistan are equipping their schools with child-friendly standards that are the right of every child.