AKF Gets Kids in Kyrgyzstan Reading and Learning
For many children in the Kyrgyz Republic, life involves an annual migration: several months each year moving with their families and livestock to high pastures in the mountains. The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) wants these kids to have access to an education too, so the Yurt Kindergarten program supports pre-school teachers who travel with these pastoralist communities.
The kindergarten classes are very popular, often meeting in the teacher’s portable one-room home (or yurt). Surveys show that when these children enter primary school, they often outperform others in reading and math. One factor in their success is the children’s access to a community mini-library, which AKF also supports. In fact AKF has helped to create nearly 60 mini-libraries in Kyrgyzstan, used by over 16,000 children.
Earlier this year, to support those libraries and others in schools across Kyrgyzstan, AKF signed an agreement with the Kyrgyz Ministry of Education and Science and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to reprint over 90,000 copies of children’s books that promote tolerance, peace and respect for diversity. The books will go to all of the country’s 2,204 schools.
AKF first developed books such as Three Sad Wizards with local authors and illustrators following violent outbreaks involving ethnic tension in June 2010. The books promote multiculturalism in both form and content: the narratives highlight themes of tolerance and appear in two-language formats. A podcast of Three Sad Wizards (http://bit.ly/K30kCi) was voted Best Story in an online poll.
AKF’s programs in Kyrgyzstan are providing lessons for use across the Aga Khan Development Network. The idea of community mini-libraries, for example, has spread to other countries in Central Asia, South Asia and East Africa.
Caption: Kyrgyz children in the Murghab mountains, never too far from school (yurt in background). Photo: AKF/ Robert Middleton