Over the past few months of self-isolation in Kyrgyzstan connected with the Pandemic Covid-19, there was much information about online learning opportunities for young people. Today, the benefits of distance learning are more important than ever. The closure of educational institutions and other changes in the daily life of young people should not prevent them from growing and learning, because this is the basis for the development of vital skills for their future.
Last month, the UN Development Program (UNDP), together with the Association of Legal Clinics of Kyrgyzstan offered the opportunity for young people to spend days during quarantine with benefit and improve their knowledge and skills in the field of rights and media literacy by participating in the initiative " Ukuktuk Mektep”. This is an online school, which was initiated as part of the activity “Connecting youth through law” within the project “Promoting Kyrgyzstan's Youth Cohesion and Interaction towards Uzbekistan,” funded by the UN Peacebuilding Fund.
Key achievements of the initiative
The online school "Ukuktuk Mektep" was open to all interested students of middle school and older age youth and even adults. Classes and guest lectures were held in Kyrgyz and Russian languages in the following areas: self-development, media literacy, human rights, citizenship, migration, and family law. Series of lessons on these topics were organized through the Google Classroom and Zoom platforms, which helps to control the flow of students, distribute assignments and verify their feasibility.
According to the organizers, keeping adolescents involved and interact at least on-line will help them to feel that they are improving their potential and learn from each other.
“Lessons on legal topics were directed mainly to students in grades 8-11. The materials were developed in advance jointly with UNDP, and themes for lessons were selected during the first phase of the “Ukuktuk Mektep” initiative held last year in schools located in 9 pilot municipalities of Osh, Jalal-Abad and Batken provinces bordering with Uzbekistan that had covered 646 students.
How the preparation went?
At the preparatory stage, volunteers were selected from among students of law schools in Osh, Jalal-Abad and Batken regions as well as local activists. Volunteers assisted in developing a series of on-line lessons through video recording and video processing. The volunteers themselves were also trained first on how to make video lessons.
More than 52 participants aged 14 to 25 from of the southern regions registered through an on-line registration form. Among of them, 24 were girls and 28 were boys. During the training, students themselves proposed additional topics to improve their knowledge on pressing legal issues of youth, asked questions and participated in discussions. Webinars were also held for personal growth and career guidance. The initiative involved 232 young girls and boys in total.
“The session on “How do I know if a lawyer lives in me?” provided by Nargiza Zhenisheva, a specialist at the Association of Legal Clinics of Kyrgyzstan, was very interesting and useful for me as I have learned better about what new areas are relevant in the legal community today.”-
Nishanova Nazima (17 years old), school number 29 in Osh, Osh region.
What were the challenges?
“Distance learning is only gaining momentum here in Kyrgyzstan. Of course, we came across with the challenges. For example, we tried to involve more rural youth living in border areas as it was a priority for the Project. Before starting the online school, we conducted training and developed instruction on the use of on-line platforms such as Google Classroom, Gmail, ZOOM, and provided detailed guidance for all those who registered. We have also purchased the paid version of ZOOM for webinars to minimize the problem of slow Internet on ordinary sites that are designed for webinars. This has improved the accessibility and quality of the platform for each participant of the online school. There were cases when, due to certain circumstances, students could not attend all sessions, and therefore lessons were recorded and sent immediately through our what`s app group.”-
Elina Salyzhanova (20 years old), the course moderator.
“It should be noted that today young activists are not afraid to propose solutions that are aimed at improving youth cohesion, in particular through law. Indeed, in the end, the law is one of the tools of peacebuilding and the fact that young people are part of this process is most pleasing,”-
Nargiza Tashtemirova, UNDP project expert.
Youth and COVID-19
In addition, the platform of this online school was used to raise youth awareness on COVID-19 and ways of personal protection. General hygiene precautions were shown through videos as well as how to protect themselves from fake information and distinguish reliable media sources posting information related to the coronavirus situation in the country. For this purpose, we used information materials developed and approved by the Republican headquarters of the Kyrgyz Republic to combat coronavirus, as well as materials from WHO and the UN.
“It was a good experience with rights! I’m sure I will need it at university. I got a lot of new information and knowledge about the state, law, people and society, parliament, and learned about webinars that brought together young people of three oblasts! I made many new friends from whom I learned new things, and we will continue to hold our webinars to share our experiences. Thank you so much for that! ”-
Khuseinova Gulnur (17 years old), Batken Gymnasium, Batken Oblast.
The successful experience of the online school "Ukutuk Mektep" once again confirmed the wide possibilities for the personal and professional development of youth. Thus, we will continue to inform you about future training initiatives!