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Kazakhstan Schools in Disrepair: Through Hardships to the Knowledge

Kazakhstan still has operating schools that were built until the 1980s. They are almost unfit for classes, but their repair is underfinanced and construction of new schools is going slowly.

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For the years of independence of Kazakhstan, 1,672 schools have been built and 110 to 170 schools are being built annually out of republican budget. However, there is still a problem of schools in disrepair.

In April 2014, the roof of the Lomonosov high school No. 5 in Taldykorgan fell down on the fourth-grade student and the child was hospitalised to intensive care. Last year, the roof of the school in disrepair in Aktobe fell down on students, nine of them were hospitalised. This is number one problem in every region of the country. 

Photo of local residents of the town of Taiynsha

This spring, a part of the school building in the town of Taiynsha, North Kazakhstan region, fell down due to vertical cracks formed because of the foundation failure. It was built back in 1936 and no repair works have been done since then. The building collapsed at night, when no one was at school leaving no victims and injured.

Photo: Aibulat Bukenov

A similar situation occurred in West Kazakhstan region this March. The roof of the sports hall fell down in the village of Sarykuduk, Kaztal district. The school that was built back in 1977 contained 50 students. In the same region, the school of the Zhanakal district school was unroofed by the wind a few times.

According to the ministry of education, half of all 7 thousand educational institutions of Kazakhstan were built until the 80s of last century. 144 of them are still operating.

This is what the library of the Karabulak high school looks like, although the local akimat allocates money every year to its repair works.

The school in Karabulak looks no better.

Back in 2015, the national fund allocated 66 billion tenge (170.4 million dollars) to infrastructure development in education. The agency in charge and executive bodies promised to solve the problem with schools in disrepair in 2018, but the issue remains open.

A school in the village of Bigash, Almaty region, which has not been repaired in the last 10 years, doesn’t have a toilet in the building.


Therefore, students go to the toilet, which is three kilometres away from the school.

According to minister of education and science of Kazakhstan Askhat Aimagambetov, local executive bodies allocate insufficient money to repair works of schools every year, which leads to the growth of the number of schools in disrepair.

“Today, capital repair is envisaged for 323 schools, which is 45 per cent of total requirement. In Almaty, 10 schools out of 144 are underfinanced in terms of repair, in West Kazakhstan region only four schools out of 60, in Zhambyl region only seven schools out of 85, in Kyzylorda only five schools out of 22,” Aimagambetov said.

However, former school principal, now deputy of the lower house of parliament Irina Smirnova said the national budget allocates enough funds for repair of schools. But they are spent inappropriately.

“The sphere of education is always subject to reforms, new minister means new reform, millions are spent on various programmes, new textbooks, which are not needed in a year. Now we have the 16th minister of education, they change very often. Last year, the ministry of education could not spend nine billion tenge (23.2 million dollars). The reasons were lengthy bidding procedure, long negotiation of agreements, delay in work schedule. As a result, our children and teachers are the ones who suffer,” Smirnova said.

Alimzhan Isabaev, expert in education: 

“We need to develop a special programme to fund small schools. In our village with 200 children of school-age, a school with a pool for 1,500 people is being built. In a place where three times more people live, they build a school for 300 students only. It’s not logical. They spend money on cool gyms, pools, etc. Meanwhile, in some schools the roof leaks and children are sick because of humidity all the winter.”

In Shymkent, over a thousand students study in a former public bathhouse. According to the city’s education department, this year the lyceum No. 80 didn’t have enough places for students. The school is intended for 1,200 students, while it has over four thousand students registered. Therefore, they had to rend a bathhouse, which costs more than 3 million tenge (7.75 thousand dollars) per month from the budget.

Three more schools in Shymkent rent typical buildings.

Some parents would like to take their child and send to some other school, but there are no vacant places anywhere. They simply do not have time to build state educational institutions. Especially there are not enough schools in the primary education system.

Some schools even have “Z” and “U” forms. Across the country, 405 thousand children became first-graders in September, which is 20 thousand more than in 2018. The law introduced the norm that since 2019 all children are required to go to school from the age of six. In total, there are 3 million students in Kazakhstan.

Ali Maksatuly goes to 1st “J” form. He goes to classes in the evening, and returns almost at night.

“There are a lot of us in the class, sometimes three of us sit at a desk. Dad takes me home, I’m afraid to return home alone. I want to study in the afternoon like my sister, but they don’t take me to another school,” the student said.

Another reason for the emergence of three-shift schools is the demographic situation and migration processes. For example, about 80 thousand people moved to Astana from other regions of the country in 2017, 95 thousand moved in 2018, 40 thousand of which are children.

High school for 2,000 students in the town of Aktobe

By order of president of Kazakhstan Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, the republican budget for 2019-2021 allocates extra 50 billion tenge (129.09 million dollars) for regions that don’ have enough seats for students. The document is going to be approved by the end of the year.

Deputies hope the ministry of education and local akimats would spend the money allocated and repair, build new schools.

This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.

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