Rebirth of a village school
In the multi-ethnic village of Tajik-Abad in southern Kyrgyzstan, the 2013 school year was very special. For the first time, the local school opened two first grade classes instead of the usual one. The reason for the influx of children is the new renovations on the school which led to substantial changes in the life of the school and community.
The school was constructed in 2001 by the villagers themselves. However, the joy over a new school changed soon into disappointment. Shoddy craftsmanship permitted during the construction resulted in a leaking roof and breakage of supporting pins. Enrolment began progressively decreasing due to worsening conditions at the school. If at its opening the school had 500 students, by 2011 only half of them were left.
Nilyfar Supieva, student in the 8th grade, recalled: “Winter cold was coming through thin windows making temperature in classes 12-13°C, and me and my friends got sick all the time and had spent weeks at home or hospitals with high temperature”.
With the aim to improve access to high quality, equitable and child-friendly education services, UNICEF with the support from the Government of Japan, has provided education supplies and rehabilitated 54 preschool and school institutions in multi-ethnic communities of southern Kyrgyzstan.
The school was one of the selected sites. UNICEF provided support for new roofing, installation of plastic windows and provision of new furniture for classrooms. Soon after, the floor was repaired; electricity and heating were installed with the help of national and local authorities. To improve hygiene and sanitary conditions, UNICEF supported construction of a new toilet with additional space for children with disabilities that has a wheelchair accessible ramp. New washing rooms were opened in the school building and a refectory.
Besides improving basic facility conditions, UNICEF also provided methodical assistance in promoting hygiene in the schools. The school received copies of teacher manuals on hygiene promotion. The teachers participated in training sessions for using the manuals to become more proficient in improving hygiene in schools in a systematic way.
The equity focus interventions at local level are complemented by policy change. The Ministry of Education and Science has initiated a change in salary scale and curriculum as a part of the education comprehensive reform which was supported by UNICEF. The salary reform has made it more attractive for young teachers to work in rural places. Curriculum reform in basic education has been undertaken to shift towards competency oriented learning and development.
The on-going changes excite everyone. Nurjan Israilova, the school principal in Tajik-Abad, praised a growing interest of parents in the school life. The children began linking their future dreams with the school. “In the future I would like to be mathematics instructor and come back to this school to teach” shared Ziyada Alimova, student of 10 grade.
The most remarkable thing is that the more that things are being done, the faster that plans grow in this community. The villagers are discussing how to construct a gym for children’s physical exercise even in the coldest weather, to repair the road to the school and to arrange a school bus for children who live far off. Not everything goes quick and easy, but the revived hope makes the young and old try to achieve the goals they have set for themselves. That is why when the community elders gather, they first bless UNICEF for all their work they do for children and then proceed discussing on-going activities and plans.