Two schools in one building
by Aashild Eliassen, UNICEF Kyrgyzstan, Education Sector
Kyrgyzstan, December 2010 - On 19 November Sharipova School opened its doors for all the children of Tolstoy School – one of two schools which were burnt down during the June violence. Every day the 630 new students arrive in seven buses, bringing the total number of students at Sharipova to 1200.
The temporary co-habitation enriches both schools. The principals of Sharipova and Tolstoy schools agree that this is a rare opportunity to share teaching methods and experience. “We are learning from each other all the time”, says principal of Sharipova School, Muhabathon Usmanova, adding that ties, relations and friendships are growing stronger day by day.
From fighters to peace builders
At the beginning it was not easy. “One day I heard that one of my students was fighting with a Sharipova student in grade nine. The reason was reportedly that my student had blocked the road so the Sharipova student could not pass. And the Sharipova student had shouted”: “We own this school! You can go home to where you belong” shared Myodinov, principal of Tolstoy School. The principles themselves discussed the incident and managed to convince the two boys who started the fighting to become the main peace promoters. To strengthen the ties between the nine grades of the two schools, a football tournament was organized. Today the two boys, Abdukarim and Tolkun, are good friends.
“If Abdukarim and Tolkun notice students that try to fight or make trouble, they interfere, talk with the students and convince them to stop. It is a pleasure to see how Abdukarim and Tolkun act in the school yard, for instance by dividing the students into groups, where they share thoughts on peace, cultural diversities, conflicts, mobbing etc. I have noticed that they also use humor and jokes to raise awareness on tolerance and friendship”, says Myodinov.
On the whole Myodinov appreciates how the students of Tolstoy School have tackled first the loss of their school, then the temporary tent-school and finally the transfer to another school for the winter.
The story of Mykharam, Zarnigor and Odina
According to Mykharam, Zarnigor and Odina, three girl-friends from grade 7, they have managed to adapt to the different schools, mainly because they always stick together and comfort each other: “I cried for several days when our school burnt. But what a surprise when UNICEF installed school tents right in our territory! It was so unexpected and unusual. As a matter of fact, study in tents when it is warm outside, gives a pleasant feeling. During these two or three months we felt very special as we got the attention of journalists from all over the world”, affirms Odina Baktioyr Kyzy (12).
“Only one thing was not agreeable with the tent school: the cold days arriving in the middle of November. But then we were transferred to Sharipova School. That’s why we are especially pleased to be accommodated in a warm, well equipped and nicely decorated three storey school building with a lot of space. We are grateful to UNICEF for providing double windows and an efficient heating system at Sharipova School”, continues Zarnigor Kushakova (12). “Although Sharipova School is a distance from our homes, it is not a problem because UNICEF provided 7 buses which take us to school and back home.”
“I was so sorry when my school burnt. What helped me to overcome all the violence in June is that we could start school together with our classmates; and all the teachers followed us both to the tent school and now to Sharipova School” says Mukharam Kadyrova.
Even if though these three school girls not only lost their school, but also their homes, they have not lost their hopes and dreams of a better future. Their houses have been re-built; they attend school and want to study hard to become teachers themselves. One shared dream is to move into the reconstructed Tolstoy School in March next year. In the meantime they enjoy studying in a friendly atmosphere at Sharipova School.
“One indicator of the well-being of the Tolstoy students is school attendance. Since the transfer to Sharipova School on 19 November, the school attendance has gradually increased. For instance today only one student was absent in grade one”, emphasizes principal Myodinov. “Due to the school buses, the punctuality of the students has increased”, informs Myodinov and adds that each school has its own principal as before, Sharipova students are studying in one shift in the morning, while the Tolstoy students are studying in three shifts, morning, midday and afternoon.
“Our friendship will be further cultivated, for instance, through a celebration day dedicated to peace and friendship with activities such as song, music, sport and humor contests”, ends Murodiljan Myodinov.