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Back to school: Remedial classes for working children begin in Kyrgyzstan

Three formal remedial classes for children with breaks in their education, school drop-outs and child labourers have started at the secondary school No. 94 in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek.

Article | 08 October 2016
BISHKEK (ILO News) – The evening remedial classes, which are equivalent to 8-10 grades, offer thousands of children in the Central Asian country the chance to return to the classroom and complete their education. The classes follow the formal schooling process with a standardized curriculum and school leaving certificates.

According to the Second Child Labour Survey conducted in Kyrgyzstan by the National Statistical Committee in 2014 with the ILO’s technical and financial assistance, out of an estimated 580,565 children in employment, 414,246 children (71.4 per cent) are child labourers. The overwhelming majority of child labourers (95 per cent) are unpaid family workers, and almost every third child aged 7-13 combines schooling with child labour. However, for many children it is impossible to work and go to school so they choose work at the expense of their education. The survey showed that 28,364 children aged 7-17 have dropped out of school, and 89.3 per cent of them are 16-17 years of age.

“What is most important is that the classes are fully funded by the local budget and are now part of the formal education system,” said Amina Kurbanova, national project coordinator of the ILO Project Combating Child Labour in Central Asia – Commitment becomes Action (PROACT-CAR Phase III). “Similar remedial classes funded by the local budget are already operational in Kara-Suu municipality in the south of Kyrgyzstan. What we are seeing now is a start of a nationwide process.”

The launch of the remedial classes was preceded by three years of intense preparations. The classes were tested on a pilot basis within the framework of the ILO’s PROACT CAR and One UN Project. Parallel to this, efforts were made to harmonize legislation, enhance the capacities of teachers and educational specialists, as well as to sensitize and mobilize government officials and the public. Kyrgyzstan now has a Child Labour Monitoring System that helps to identify working children and refer those in need to remedial classes.

15-year-old Aziz is one of the working children. He is happy to be at school now: “I worked at our family joinery and I have never attended school. I often regretted it, but I thought it was too late for me. Now I am glad that I can read and write. And I always look forward to the arithmetic class – it is my favourite one."

“Much still needs to be done to make the system fully and effectively operational at the national level, but these developments show that the country has taken a systemic approach to addressing child labour,” said Snezhi Bedalli, Senior Desk Officer for Europe, Central Asia and Arab States, Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Branch, ILO Geneva. “The ILO will continue to work with the Kyrgyz constituents to return to school working children from socially vulnerable families. The remedial classes that have opened in Kyrgyzstan give these children a chance for a decent future.”