KYRGYZSTAN:

QLP Camp is Turning Point for Thirteen-year-old

July 12, 2012

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Mamasabyt, 13, (second from the left) with his campmates.

At thirteen, Mamasabyt had never been to school and couldn’t read or write. This is part of the gritty reality of life in the forty immigrant shantytowns, known as “new settlements,” that have sprung up on the outskirts of Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek. Legally regarded as squatters, families like Mamasabyt’s are not registered residents and are often not included in a school district. USAID’s Quality Learning Project (QLP) is helping concerned local Kyrgyz organizations do something to help these families. Ten local non-governmental organizations were provided with grants up to $40,000 to help kids like Mamasabyt get ready to go to school—sometimes for the very first time.

One of the grantee organizations, Councils for Human Rights, organized a summer camp for 21 young school dropouts from six of the “new settlements.” That’s where they met Mamasabyt. Guljamal Sultanalieva, Director of the Councils for Human Rights, tells his story: “While talking with Mamasabyt, I learned why he didn’t go to school and why he had to work. He had to help his family by earning money.” Mamasabyt’s mother supports her six children by selling bananas in the local bazaar. To help his mother keep food on the table, Mamasabyt often went with her to the bazaar where he earned about $4 per day picking up and selling used boxes.

Beaten down by his circumstances, Mamasabyt was at first withdrawn and uncommunicative. But, the camp organizers found him to be a bright boy and as his days at the camp continued, he became an enthusiastic learner, quickly picking up the basics of reading, writing, and drawing. By the end of the camp session, Mamasabyt had blossomed, interacting sociably with the coordinators and his campmates and even taking part in a public performance. A good singer, he joined other campers in performing a traditional Ramadan song at the camp’s close-out event.

Currently, Mamasabyt is enrolled in an accelerated learning course at Bishkek School # 43 using a curriculum developed with support from USAID’s Quality Learning Project, representatives of special education schools and Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Education. USAID’s investment is being multiplied by the International Labor Organization which is funding ongoing accelerated learning courses in Bishkek schools which are reaching more children like Mamasabyt in the “new settlements.

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