Many of us are so immersed in our daily life that very often forget that somewhere in a remote place there are children facing challenging and even dangerous situations to go to school, and they do not even have clean drinking water. They go to school because they know it is important; it is one way to overcome their very poor living conditions.

Take Denis Anarbaev, for example. Denis is a great student. He has received awards and diplomas at school for his excellent performance and good behavior, even having to walk every day 10 kilometers to go to school, from his native village Kyzyl-Kyshtak in Masy AA of Nooken rayon, in Kyrgyzstan, to the rayon center.

A usual day for Denis and his siblings, Ainur and Adashkul, would began early in the morning before sunrise. To get to school, especially in the winter, they have to walk in the dawn darkness through a deserted area, crossing a dangerous emergency bridge across a mountain river, having many times to run away from jackals and wild dogs on their way.

Once, Denis’ siblings were attacked by wild dogs. Another time, Denis got sick with high fever and his father had to carry him in his arms to receive medical care in the rayon center.

These everyday challenges forced Denis’ parents to enroll all three children in a boarding school, located in the Kochkor-Ata town. They would visit their children once a week at best.

Aisalkyn Satarova, Denis’ mother, vented her frustration: "I am always worried about my kids, the fact that they are not with me, not at home. I am always afraid that someone might hurt them, worried that my children might be undernourished. Always thought that my children might get distanced from me or get into a bad company."

In the context of the challenges faced by these and many other children, development partners joined efforts to come up with some solutions that emerged from the village itself.

 

VHC Voice project

In 2014, the Village Health Committee (VHC) of Kyzyl-Kyshtak became a pilot in the "VHC Voice" project, which is led by the Development Policy Institute and supported by the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA).  

During the project implementation, VHC together with the village residents were able to identify community problems, formulate and bring them to local government officials. Denis’ parents were actively involved in all activities to address the challenges of the village, including the urgent provision of decent education for children.

Kandalat Toktosunova, VHC chairperson of Kyzyl-Kyshtak village, stressed, "several years ago, residents had no idea that they were the key to solving their own problems. After participating in the “VHC Voice” project, they began to realize that if the community itself did not take the initiative to solve problems, they would not get decent living conditions and changes for the better."

Local self-government (LSG) bodies undertook all efforts to address the problem of children’s education that remained acute for many years because of limited local budget. For several years, for example, the government was not able to complete the construction of a school in Kyzyl-Kyshtak village.

Finally, in 2016, with the financial support of the VHC Voice project, a minivan was procured. And now children can get to their schools in a safe and faster way.

"VHC became a great and very important link in the aimak (municipal district) development. Over the past year, we were able to significantly change the living conditions of the population. Citizens became more actively involved in the activities of the aimak, “ said Mahmud Mamatov, head of Masy AO “Through active participation of the local population and VHC of Kyzyl-Kyshtak village, we were able to buy a vehicle, as well as repair and lay asphalt on the main road of the village, build a covered bus stop along the road, and repair the emergency bridge.”  

This year local self-government bodies also reviewed and allocated a site for installation of a cargo container for functioning of feldsher site and VHC office. Now, the community can receive consultations and treatment in their own village.

Improved living conditions cannot simply be called luck; this is the result of the reinforced and scrupulous work of Masy AO, VHC of Kyzyl-Kyshtak village, and the community. All the parties, by participating in solving local affairs, have made a huge contribution to the future of their children, as well as to the development of a better aimak.

Today, Denis, Adashkul and Ainura live with their parents at home. In the evenings the whole family gathers at the table preparing for tomorrow’s lessons.