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On the Silk Road with June Cashmere - Back to school.

IN a normal year, September 1 is always the first day of school in Kyrgyzstan - no matter on which day of the week it falls. This year, because of the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 virus, the start of school was delayed, starting this week on September 15.  

Before the big day, the school grounds are spruced up…everything is swept, walls are whitewashed, and parents prepare their children to look their best. Girls wear black skirts with white shirts or blouses and often have large hair bows in their hair.  The boys wear black pants, white shirts, and a bow tie or tie.  Many students come with a bouquet of flowers to give to their teacher 

Photo: USAID Kyrgyz Republic

On the first day, there is an assembly outside the school where the students stand in groups according to their grade; the parents stand around the perimeter.  The director and/or a number of teachers greet everyone with welcoming remarks, remarks, challenging students to make it a good year. Particular attention is then made to the first graders who are starting their educational journey, and to the 11th graders who are getting ready to complete their secondary education (grade 11 is the final year before university here).  An 11th grade boy will walk over to the first grade class with a bell in his hand that is given to him by the director…he then picks up one of the first grade girls and carries her around in front of the other students as she officially rings the first bell marking the start of school.

Education is highly valued in Kyrgyzstan and even in the most rural villages, the school will be one of the better cared for buildings and children’s participation is taken seriously. In village settings there are often more remote homes scattered out in the hills a bit away from the village…children from these homes walk to school, sometimes up to three miles each way in all types of weather conditions. 

Rural children walking to school in winter.

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