60 per cent of schools in Kyrgyzstan were built until 1980 meaning that they have used their resources in full and require major repair, according to the analysis performed by Bulan Institute. The problem with rural schools is a major problem.
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According to the ministry of education, now the country has 198 unfit schools, including 17 schools in a very bad condition. At a recent parliamentary session, Prime Minister Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev requested to expedite construction works related to schools and tackle the financial issue.
Nevertheless, studies continue in the majority of unfit buildings as there is no other way out.
In early September, a photo of the celebratory assembly in the village of Kenesh, Naryn region, appeared in social media. Six officials took part in the opening ceremony of the school made of containers.
According to the head of village administration of Kenesh Ulan Alseitov, the school was recognised unfit back in 2015, but the issue of new school construction could not be decided for four years. In 2019, the old school became absolutely unsuitable for use and a decision was made to use mobile homes provided by the emergency ministry as a temporary response. These are standard metal containers, which are provided to the people affected during disasters for their temporary accommodation.
“We have applied to all authorities, but they have failed to settle this issue. Various authorities alleged either long project development, or lack of funds. Only after public response in media, they promised us to take care of our school. We hope they won’t forget about us after the media frenzy goes down, and they finally built a new school for us,” Alseitov said.
However, the “container” school in Naryn region is not the only one in Kyrgyzstan. In the village of Miyaly, Kara-Suu district, Osh region, students have been studying in containers since 2017. Local authorities assured residents it was temporary, but there is still no new school built.
For three years, only 6 million som (a bit under 86 thousand dollars) have been allocated for the construction of the new school. The Kara-Suu education department said that students would have to spend this academic year in containers as this year’s budget does not provide for the funds for construction of a new building. In total, there are 11 unfit schools in the district.
In Batken region, there are 235 schools, including 22 in disrepair. Most educational institutions are located in mountain villages, so the buildings were built not according to standard designs, but by the “common dead” method, that is, when local residents participate in the construction without involving contractors. This method is usually used when you need to build a house quickly and at a low cost.
A school in the village of Kyshtut was built back in 1969 and it the first one in the region that needs repair. Although the front part looks rather satisfactory, the walls of the other side of the building are being destroyed and the windows have decayed long ago.
“The floor is rotten, the ceilings are leaking. Parents are scared to let us go to school, but there is no other way out. We also want to study in spacious, beautiful, modern schools, like in the cities,” Nazira Babanazar kyzy, an 11th grade student, said.
Last year, when serious cracks appeared on the walls of the building, local residents did not let their children go to school. Some parents transferred their children to a school in a neighbouring village eight kilometres away, and those [students] who do not have such an opportunity continue to study here. Today, about 200 students attend the school.
Shakhabidin Maksutov, a resident of the village of Kyshtut: “When we send children to school, we always worry about them. The school building fell into disrepair in recent years. Almost all walls of the building have cracks everywhere; the building may collapse at any moment. We hope to have a new school built as there is no other way out.”
The school staff has been raising the alarm about the need to build a new building since 2005, but there are no results so far. In recent years, new educational institutions have been built in the region instead of the old ones; this academic year, 4 new schools have been put into operation. But construction of 17 more schools has been suspended due to the lack of funds.
There are 24 unfit schools in Issyk-Kul region, six of which are beyond repair and new buildings need to be built. One of them is the Zh. Asylbaev secondary school in the village of San Tash, Tiup district.
The school was built back in the 1970s and needs a canteen to be built, and generally a major repair, which has never been done here. The director of studies, Urmat Ishenbaev, said the building has no ventilation system, which caused fungus in the wooden floor.
“The floor in the corridor has been patched so many times, but every year the hole is getting bigger, and a school library is located nearby. You should be very cautious when walking on the floor as you never know where it can collapse,” Ishenbaev said.
The branch of the school for grades 1-4 is located in the village of Karkyra – 17 km away from the village of San Tash. Children study in the building of the former public bath house, which also contains the rural health post.
There are even more problems in the branch than in the main school. A four-room premise is not designed for classes, but there is no other choice.
According to one of the teachers, Cholpon Turatova, a total of 13 children study in primary school. Only one student in the first grade, three in the second and third grades, and six students in the fourth grade.
“For grades 1-3 and 2-4 we have mixed learning. One teacher gives classes and he should cover two topics for two classes in 45 minutes. Of course, this is very difficult both for us and for the students,” Turatova said.
In this academic system, teachers receive a salary only for the hours of classes they give. Despite the double load, these hours are accounted as one class.
In summer, physical education classes are held outside in both educational institutions, and in winter – in the classroom. Neither the mains school, nor the branch has a gym.
Both the school and the branch are located in the border zone at an altitude of 2,000 metres above sea level. Winter lasts up to 7-8 months, but primary school students get to the so-called “dwarf” school on foot. They do not miss classes even when the road is blocked up with snow up to three metres high.
But it is very cold in the school itself when it’s freezing outside, the Dutch oven – one in two classes – does not help and sometimes belches so much smoke you have to ventilate the room in winter.
“In winter, children sometimes are not able to hold their pens and write something because of the cold. We switch on the heater to somehow warm up the class, but sockets and wires melt because of the overload,” Cholpon Turatova said.
According to the aiyl okmotu of San Tash village, Orozbek Dzhaparov, the issue of construction of the new building was raised a long time, but due to the small population – only 180 people – they did not pay attention to this problem. Once they even thought the new building was not needed for so few people.
However, the school was protected and they secured some funds from the Development Fund of Issyk-Kul region to develop a project estimate for a new educational institution in the village of Karkyra with a gym for 100 students.
“The design and estimate work of the new school building is now at the completion stage. But it does not mean that the school will be built. We have yet to approve and introduce this project to the republican budget,” Dzhaparov said.
The school in the village of Orlinoye, Ak-Suu district, Issyk-Kul region, has been considered unfit for more than 10 years. The building was built back in the 1970s after a violent earthquake as a temporary office building. Then it was refurbished into a school.
The roof of the school leaks; the classes cannot accommodate all students. This year, the Issyk-Kul Development Fund allocated one million som (14.33 thousand dollars) to replace the roof.
The damage rate of schools is determined by the Emergency Ministry on the basis of inspections. Afterwards, local authorities send a request to the government about the need to build a new building. Once approved, the Gosstroy develops a project and after the ministry of finance allocates funds, it launches construction. But most often the issue gets delayed for several years.
According to the Department of Residential Construction (DJGS), construction of 252 schools across the country is now funded from the state budget. But due to the lack of funds, construction works are carried out slowly and the project turns into delayed construction.
The DJGS work map shows that only 35 schools are at the 70-100% readiness stage. As of September 2019, only 15 schools and additional buildings were completed, 12 more are planned to be completed by the end of this year.
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project.