Kyrgyzstan: Growing a Kindergarten

Children at the Liliya community kindergarten in Boz-Adyr village. Photo: Gulnara Mambetalieva/IRIN

Children at the Liliya community kindergarten in Boz-Adyr village. Photo: Gulnara Mambetalieva/IRIN

BATKEN, Kyrgyzstan | Five-year-old Yrysbek has been going to the Liliya community kindergarten in Boz-Adyr village for the past several months. “We play here, watch TV and teachers tells stories. I like it here,” he said.Yrysbek’s parents have been working in Moscow as plasterers at construction sites for the past few years. “There is no work in our village; that’s why my son and my daughter-in-law had to leave to earn money in Russia. Besides Yrysbek, I am bringing up three other grandchildren,” says the boy’s grandmother, Salika Saitdinova, 55.

Batken province is considered Kyrgyzstan’s poorest and most underdeveloped region, where residents are mainly engaged in agriculture.

The population of Boz-Adyr is composed of elderly people and small children. All middle-aged, able-bodied people are labor migrants, primarily in Russia.

According to the head of the State Committee on Migration and Employment, Aigul Ryskulova, there are more than 400,000 Kyrgyz labor migrants [in a population estimated at just over 5 million], of whom 300,000 are working in Russia and 80,000 in Kazakhstan.

In Soviet times, there was a kindergarten in the village but after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 it was closed down. Local children were deprived of any preschool education for many years.

Olga Grebennikova, a spokeswoman for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Kyrgyzstan, told IRIN that about 11 percent of children in the country were attending pre-schools, while in rural areas that rate was between 2 and 6 percent.

“In the 1990s, when people started going abroad in search of a living because they could not get jobs in their village, no one could think about how their children would be brought up and what education they would receive,” says Lubov Isakova, head of the Liliya community kindergarten, where she also works as a teacher and a cleaner.

“It is known that the education level of schoolchildren in Kyrgyzstan has dropped in recent years because the children did not receive preschool education in due time. You will see, when the children get necessary knowledge and skills, our education will improve significantly. It will happen in several years,” Isakova said.

A study by a group of researchers at the University of London published in the journal Science in August found that children who attended pre-school scored better in math than their peers who did not.

“Parents left for abroad and left their children under the care of their elderly parents. But can grandmothers and grandfathers really give a child a proper education at this preschool age?” she asked.

That sentiment was among the main reasons why migrant parents approached the local authorities in 2002 asking for help in opening a kindergarten.

“There are 2,510 families in our Boz-Adyr village. After parents asked us to open a kindergarten, we went to UNICEF for help,” says Abdymital Alybaev, head of Suu-Bashi village council, which covers Boz-Adyr.

When the local authorities decided to give an old building to the kindergarten, the villagers agreed to repair the building with their own money. “UNICEF bought furniture, equipment, books and toys for children and now 46 children go to this kindergarten every day.”

Salika is happy to see her grandson and other small children not playing in the street all day long, but under the care of a teacher in the kindergarten learning how to communicate and socialize. “Now he has started singing songs he learns there. He even tells me stories and has become very open, very curious and sociable,” she said.

Salika says her children in Russia send her about $200 every month. She pays about $5 per month for her grandson’s kindergarten fees, buys him clothes and food for the family. “This is enough for our living but I miss my children very much and my grandchildren also miss them a lot. We just do not have any alternative. There are no jobs in the village.”

A Kyrgyz lawmaker, Gulnara Derbisheva, says, “When children go to these kindergartens, they receive the necessary level of preschool education to enter school. It should be emphasized that these are the children of parents who are labor migrants and are away from home only because they need to feed their families.”

Chinara Akhmedova, coordinator of UNICEF programs in Batken, says several other similar kindergartens have opened in the region. “Their goal is to create favorable conditions for the development and education of every child and realization of the children’s right to education by mobilizing the entire village community.”

This article was originally published by IRIN, the UN’s humanitarian news and analysis service. Copyright © IRIN 2008.




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