Archive for March 18, 2008

Clockwise Prejudice About Kazakhstan’s Education

This Independence celebration of Dec. 16 that the Kazakhs celebrate may have a strange origin with violence of students clashing against the Soviet authorities.  But then again, our own American independence was a bunch of distinguished upstarts railing against the prevailing British authorities of their time.  Freedom was birthed by people standing up for what they believed was right even though it ultimately meant bloodshed.

Yesterday at work, I talked to a teaching colleague friend of mine who has blue eyes, like me, another Helen. She has a similar background to the Helen, as a Russian-Kazakhstani, whom I blogged about yesterday, though she is about 10 years younger. Helen was from northern Kazakhstan where she claims the educational system is far superior than that of the south. (Almaty is in the south) Helen admitted she had not wanted to come to Almaty but here she is with a high profile job.  I have a great deal of respect for Helen as a very hard worker who has high standards.Helen told me that the southern part of Kazakhstan is considered more nationalistic and doesn’t have as good an educational system but better than the western part of the country where there are simple villagers and nobody wants to go there to teach.  Eastern Kazakhstan is similar to the north in being better education-wise.  So, the way I understood it from Helen’s perspective, the North is best, then east, then south and then western Kazakhstan is the worst.  Clockwise prejudice about education.

I also found out more about the December 16, 1986 event from this second Helen.  On that day, she said that the airport was closed while she was trying to fly into Almaty from her home in the north.  She remembers when she went to the Green Market, not many sellers were there to sell their products.  Also, she said people stood in their customary lines in complete silence.  They did not chatter with each other during their long waits but went about their business of purchasing with little or no talking.  Many more Russians back in those days than now and there were mixed reviews about the student demonstration incident even among the Kazakhs. Apparently, according to Helen, the students were very unruly and destroying things but also there were Kazakh administrators in the college dormitories using sticks to goad on students to get out in the square to be a part of the demonstration.  Cars were stationed on the square ladling out vodka or other alcoholic brew along with drugs to incite the students.  Therefore, the students were caught in the crossfire between the police who were trying to uphold “law and order” and their university administrators who wanted to maintain their positions of power.  With a change in leadership from Moscow, their positions of authority were in jeopardy.  Thus, the rebellion about having an imposed non-Kazakh leader to come and take over.  I believe that is when Nazarbayev came in as Kazakhstan’s president, soon after this revolt.So, now I want to find someone who was actually on the square that particular day of Dec. 16, 1986 and find out from their perspective about what REALLY happened.  This reminds me of the Tianamen Square incident which happened in Beijing, China in 1989.  Later I taught mainland Chinese students who had been on the square and they spoke with fear about the violence and terror they felt during that tumultuous time.  I believe, the desire for freedom and independence is bred in all our hearts, no matter what nation.  We, as Americans, take for granted what our forefathers fought for these many hundreds of years ago.  Counter-clockwise thinking about our freedom AND our education.

Leave a comment »