Optimism before school starts after the summer
There is no doubt that Osh is wakening up. The smell of fresh bread emanates from the street vendors. Stables of water melons and maize are bringing back colors to the city. Cars gear up beside elderly women in long robes and scarves and students preparing for the school year to start.
One student, Nazbiyke Sydykova (17), is fully equipped and comes to Lomonosov School, although the school year has not started yet. The whole summer she has been indoors, but now she is slowly starting to leave her home in Furkat, one of the hardest hit areas in Osh province. She is eagerly looking forward to school starting and to meeting her classmates again. Of course she knows that some of her classmates will not be there. They left Osh with their parents to safer areas after the upraising in June. She particularly misses her best friend, Jyldyz, who went to Bishkek with her parents. Now Nazbiyke is chatting with her every day trying to persuade her to return: “Come back, Jyldyz! I miss you. I go out now, and I will start school. The teachers are back.”
As a matter of fact Nazbiyke knows that she probably will have one or two new teachers, as 12 of the 74 teachers in Lomonosov School left after the June events. Some went abroad to Russia and Kazakhstan. The Master Teacher Shakirova Alia Fanilievna is working hard to replace those who left: “It is important to have good teachers. Their attitude is crucial. A teacher should be at his or her place - like a captain on a ship”, emphasizes the Master Teacher and adds that all the schools are busy planning for peace and tolerance. The first month is dedicated to Peace and Reconciliation, and UNICEF has cooperated with The Ministry of Education in finalizing the peace building lessons which will be integrated in the regular curriculum.
Leaflets with the words Peace, Friendship, Tolerance and Harmony, designated for the class room walls, are emphasizing Fanilievna’s statements.
The lack of teachers is not the only challenge for the Master teacher. Another concern is safety for teachers and students, especially those living far away. The government is taken measures to ensure safety in schools by providing guards and school buses. UNICEF plans to provide 24 school buses for Osh and Jalal Abad provinces.
At present the Master Teacher is optimistic: The memories are still there, but the overall enthusiasm gives support, helps to overcome fear and addresses concerns. Almost 85 per cent of the teachers are back and she is convinced the large majority of the 1811 students at Lomonosov School will show up.
While the Master Teacher talks, several female principals from other Osh schools come to the distribution point at Lomonosov School, to pick up their School in a Box Kit and Recreation Kit, delivered by UNICEF to 277 schools in Osh and Jalal Abad provinces.
At Lomonosov School, teachers, administration and students are indeed ready to start school. As mentioned, student Nazbiyke Sydykova is already present at school, as she and two other students are heading the student committee which is preparing the opening of the school on 1 September.
Nazbiyke knows that her parents are aware of the major role schools play in bringing peace back to the communities: The signal effect of school starting, teachers and students coming back, is vital and gives a feeling of normality in the communities.
Aashild Helene Eliassen, UNICEF, Education Sector