Hundreds of schoolchildren in Uzbekistan will be dipping into the classics as part of a child friendly schools programme.More than 34,000 copies of classic books have been handed over to the central Asian country’s Ministry of Public Education. Children from 850 schools in Uzbekistan will take part in the reading scheme being set up there by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and IKEA Social Initiative Fund. “Printing these books is part of a broader cooperation between UNICEF and the Ministry of Public Education to create a more conducive learning environment and broaden children’s access to knowledge and information,” said UNICEF Deputy Representative in Uzbekistan Oyun Dendevnorov.
The idea is to help overcome some of the challenges the country faces in basic and secondary education. The approach is now being piloted in the regions of Karakalpakstan, Khorezm, Navoi, Ferghana and Tashkent, including the Tashkent urban area.The schools trying out the new child friendly approach will also and train teachers how to use it. The country's political system is highly authoritarian, and its human rights record poor, so promoting child rights is one of its key goals. Building pupils’ life skills of students, and raising awareness of good hygiene and sanitation are other major aims.
“A child-friendly school recognizes the importance of children’s ideas and encourages them to contribute to their own learning process,” Matluba Ibragimova, a teacher taking part in Tashkent told UNICEF. Parents are also encouraged to take an active interest in how their child’s school is run and be a part of the learning experience of their children. Teacher’s performance will also be monitored and evaluated.
An appraisal of the scheme carried out in 2009 said that it was enhancing teachers’ skills and building trust and mutual understanding between teachers and children, which has led to improved overall performance. Parents have also expressed great satisfaction with the scheme, saying that it has made their children more interested in learning. “Thanks to our teachers, school studies have become exciting,” said says Sherzod Abdullayev, 14, who is one of his school’s best performing students. “There is no time to get bored!” Although Uzbekistan is one of the world's biggest producers of cotton and is rich in natural resources, including oil, gas and gold, economic reform has been slow and poverty and unemployment are widespread. Based on the positive results of the evaluation, the scheme will be rolled out to cover roughly half the schools in the country.
By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children