Rural schools in Kazakhstan – education at the pandemic

Duty classes with new sanitary norms provide offline education for primary schools

Elvira Yausheva
Артем Костырко (2 класс) на уроке казахского языка.
UNICEF/Kaliyev
22 October 2020

The first thing that catch your eye at the entrance to the Batpak school in a small village at the central Kazakhstan is a sanitizer hanged to the wall and a person measuring children’s temperature with an electronic thermo scanner. No loud crowds of students hurrying up to their classes and parents waiting for their children to take them home. Only a small group of pupils aged 6-11 wearing masks and waiting to be measured.

This schoolyear in Kazakhstan started differently. For the first time in the history of the Republic the Knowledge Day was not marked with celebratory assemblies, flowers and traditional meetings with school friends and teachers. Everything was online and conducted remotely, except duty classes for primary schools.  

The Ministry of Education and Science of Kazakhstan introduced the duty classes for primary schools, trying to balance the pandemic threat and education quality for younger children. Under the strict sanitary norms and several shifts per day primary schools continue to operate for pupils, whose parents opted in for offline studies at schools.

Ученики 4 класса Диана Костырко и Нурболат Мерекеев моют руки в школьном туалете.
UNICEF/Kaliyev
4th grade students, Diana Kostyrko and Nurbolat Merekeyev, wash their hands in the school toilet.

Over 2,800 rural remote schools in all 17 regions of Kazakhstan continue to function in a strict compliance with new sanitary and hygiene norms.

Back in April and May, during the first phase of the COVID-19 quarantine in Kazakhstan UNICEF in cooperation with UNESCO, Ministry of Education and Science organized a series of special webinars for multi-graded schools staff members. About 3,000 staff from all regions of Kazakhstan and medical personnel acquired a knowledge on how to protect children and prevent the COVID-19 spread during this quarantine period and after the reopening of schools. Trainers shared with webinar participants practical tips for living and studying in the time of COVID-19.

Tatiana Lysenko, class teacher of the fourth grade, shares: “From a new schoolyear we are working at the duty classes and, of course, it’s easier for us to meet in person. The new norms became tougher. Children are wearing masks, after two lessons they must change them. They constantly disinfect their hands. After every second lesson each classroom is aired and cleared. To avoid contact with other classes breaks are held in different times.”

“From a new schoolyear we are working at the duty classes and, of course, it’s easier for us to meet in person. The new norms became tougher. Children are wearing masks, after two lessons they must change them. They constantly disinfect their hands. After every second lesson each classroom is aired and cleared. To avoid contact with other classes breaks are held in different times.”

Tatiana Lysenko, class teacher of the fourth grade
Татьяна Сорокина, медсестра общеобразовательной школы №6 села Батпак, измеряет температуру ученика 4 класса Тимофея Тимонина с помощью бесконтактного термометра.
UNICEF/Kaliyev
Tatiana Sorokina, nurse of secondary school No. 6 of the Batpak village, measures the temperature of a 4th grade student, Timofey Timonin, using a non-contact thermometer.

The teacher continues explaining that children get used to new norms. They understand how serious is COVID-19 and comply with the sanitary requirements. Parents assist teachers in raising children’s knowledge on the safety measures.

Social distance at the duty classes requires 1-meter space between two desks. Only one pupil can sit behind one school desk. All sits are organized in the chess-board order. Crosses on empty sits prevent children from occupying them. Maximum number of 10 students can attend the duty class. Although pupils of secondary schools do not even have such chance to meet their classmates.  

Полина Сорокина (2 класс) на уроке казахского языка.
UNICEF/Kaliyev
Polina Sorokina (2nd grade) at the Kazakh language lesson.

The fourth-grade student, Kirill, age 9, states that in his class all children comply with new norms. He says: “The school order has been very strict since the beginning of this school year. They measure our temperature at the entrance. Treat hands with an antiseptic. In class, we sit at a distance wearing masks. We change masks every two lessons.” Kirill adds: “It’s easier to keep the distance, but harder to wear masks”.

To promote safe school environment, UNICEF with the USAID support procured sanitizers and thermo scanners and delivered information and education materials with messages on safety measures to prevent COVID-19 and the best handwashing practices to all rural remote schools in Kazakhstan.

Having provided sanitary sets to schools with estimated 195,000 students UNICEF and USAID have helped to prevent further transmission of the COVID-19 in remote areas among children.

Ученик четвертого класса Кирилл, 9 лет
Евгений Соловей, ученик 5 класса школы №6 села Батпак, дезинфицирует руки при входе в школу.
UNICEF/Kaliyev
Evgeniy Solovey, a 5th grade student of secondary school No. 6 in the Batpak village, rubs a sanitizer in his hands at the entrance of the school.

ЮНИСЕФ при поддержке Агентства США по международному развитию (USAID) закупил дезинфицирующие средства и термосканеры для создания безопасной школьной среды, а также обеспечил все удаленные сельские школы Казахстана информационными и образовательными материалами о мерах безопасности по предотвращению распространения COVID-19 и о наглядных примерах как правильно мыть руки.

Обеспечив санитарными комплектами школы, в которых обучаются около 195 000 учеников, ЮНИСЕФ и Агентство США по международному развитию (USAID) помогли предотвратить дальнейшее распространение COVID-19 среди детей в отдаленных районах Казахстана.

учащиеся 2-х классов общеобразовательной школы № 6 села Батпак Рамина Оспанова (в белом), Ясмина Оспанова (в розовом) и Валерий Демин позируют для фото.
UNICEF/Kaliyev
2nd grade students of secondary school No. 6 of the Batpak village, Ramina Ospanova (in white), Yasmina Ospanova (in pink), and Valeriy Demin, are posing for a photo.

“The UNICEF information materials are put everywhere. The temperature is measured every day with thermo scanners. If a child comes ill, it is now obvious. It helps control the process of safe education and avoid further COVID-19 spread. The UNICEF posters are made in a very accessible and understandable way,” says Tatiana Lysenko, teacher of the rural school at the Batpak village.

ученик 3-го класса Юрий Костичану позирует для фото перед входом в класс.
UNICEF/Kaliyev
3rd grade student, Yuriy Kostichanu, poses for a photo before entering the classroom.

The class teacher believes that soon they will be able to return to offline traditional education and hopes that all restrictive measures are temporary.   

UNICEF Kazakhstan advocates that a decision on continuation of distance learning or schools re-opening should be guided by a risk-based approach, taking into consideration the epidemiology of COVID-19 at the local level.