Working together for child-friendly learning in Turkmenistan
By Steve Nettleton
KUNYA URGENCH, Turkmenistan, 27 December 2007
On the playground outside District School Number One, the boys and girls line up alongside each other and prepare to play a game. Each group holds hands tightly, then sends a student from their ranks to ‘break through’ the other line.
It is a fitting exercise for a school that has begun breaking down some of the environmental barriers that threaten to interfere with education.
As part of its effort to create classroom environments that boost learning and respect children’s rights and needs, this school in Kunya Urgench, a town in northwestern Turkmenistan, offers students a resource centre complete with a computer, dictionaries, games and puzzles.
Enhanced resources for remote areas
District School Number One is one of 20 schools across Turkmenistan taking part in a UNICEF-supported pilot programme designed to better equip schools so they can give children an improved learning experience.
In rural Turkmenistan, parents and communities often help manage the schools and offer opportunities for pupils to interact with their peers outside the classroom and improve their life skills.
‘Education is useful everywhere’
Sahypjemal Gurbanmyradova, 13, says school has motivated her to become a English teacher. She is a member of an English club run by Peace Corps volunteers. Sahypjemal enjoys sharing what she learns in school with her parents and spends spare time reading encyclopaedias and playing games to improve her language skills.
“My dream is to enter a university,” says Sahypjemal. “Education is useful everywhere. You can’t do anything without proper education. When I get education, when I become a teacher, I would like to train students as teachers train us now.”
In addition to offering special training for teachers, UNICEF and the Turkmenistan Government are working to ensure that schools have safe water and sanitation facilities. This is an important task, as less than 30 per cent of rural schools currently have safe sources of drinking water.
With help from UNICEF, more classrooms in Turkmenistan are offering students a creative and healthy atmosphere and allowing them to chart their own goals in life.