KYRGYZSTAN:

Despite Obstacles, New Settlement Children Celebrate First Day of School

December 3, 2010

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Forty of Bishkek’s “novostroika” settlements, sent 1,042 six and seven year olds to first grade on September 1st. This first step on the path to education and opportunity was made possible by the Kyrgyz government with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Over last decade or so, these children were unlikely to have been registered to attend school because novostroikas are unincorporated communities inhabited by mostly rural Kyrgyz migrants seeking better economic opportunities in the capital.

“Last year, I could not register my older son at school in the Kelechek new settlement, because I did not have his birth certificate, he was not able to go to school,” said Atymbubu Koshnazarova, a mother from the Ak Jar new settlement. “This year, I thought that my second son would also face these obstacles, but thanks to USAID, he is able to go to school in Ak Bata’s new settlement school. We are very grateful to USAID”

Under USAID’s Quality Learning Project, the novostroika first graders not only made it to school, but they received at pre-school preparatory program this past summer gives them a better chance of being at grade level in the classroom.

“We conducted a household survey in July with the help of 160 surveyors who visited the homes of novostroika children not enrolled in school,” said Keneshbek B. Sainazarov, Country Director of the USAID Quality Learning Project/ Sapattuu Bilim.

The survey revealed that 2,576 children, ages 6 to 7, were at an age to start the 2010-2011school year. The survey also found that 64 percent of them had never attended pre-school and that 34 percent of were not able to attend pre-school because their parents did not know how to register them in the school system. “After identifying these children, we then placed them in preparatory classes that aimed at socializing as well as helping them improve their motor skills, including showing them how to hold a pencil and other basic classroom skills,” said Sainazarov.

Under its Youth Aid for Education Program, the Quality Learning Project worked with seven local NGOs to overcome these constraints to school enrollment by arranging registration documents and helping parents with the necessary school paperwork. The seven local NGOs working with the Youth AID Education program are: the Center for Child Protection, Arysh, EREP, Institut Detstva, Erayim, Buchur, and Ashar.

On a stunning blue-skied September morning, at the Ak Bata novostroika elementary school, 30 of these 1,042 awestruck school children were given new shoes, uniforms and school supplies to embark on a promising educational journey. USAID Country Director in Kyrgyzstan, Carey Gordon, was present and expressed the hope that this will positively change the course of their lives. A similar experience awaited their counterparts at other schools throughout the 40 novostroikas.

“The beginning of a new school year…is a time to look forward with our hopes for the coming year,” said Carey. “These students before us today represent the future of this beautiful and fascinating country. That future – for Kyrgyzstan and for its children – is something that the United States believes in very strongly. This is why USAID is investing in strong schools, healthy students and modern education systems across this country.”

USAID’s Quality Learning Project has been working with youth, young students and their parents in the novostroikas that surround Bishkek since the events of April 7th sent demonstrators in large numbers to the streets leading sitting Kyrgyz President Bakiyev to leave office. Based on the pressing need to provide greater access to education and opportunity to the next generation of new settlement youth, USAID developed and funded short-term projects such as the school enrolment effort to get 6 and 7 year olds in school.

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