I didn’t expect I would write on this blog again once home in the U.S. However, I have great quotes that Kazakh students have written saved up on my computer that I just could not ignore. As an educator for over 30 years, I think it is absolutely important to keep writing on these issues about education that concern Kazakhstan deeply. Education, according to Sir William Halley, British newspaper editor and broadcasting administrator should reflect this: “Education would be so much more effective if its purpose were to ensure that by the time they leave school, every boy and girl should know how much they do not know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it.”
While I taught in Kazakhstan in the last three and a half years, both in Almaty and Astana, I not only filled my students minds with facts but also hopefully moved their hearts. I hope that the leaders of the westernized universities in Kazakhstan would understand the following quote attributed to an unknown author: “Outstanding leaders appeal to the hearts of their followers, not their minds.” However, those administrators in universities throughout Kazakhstan are driven by Soviet practices which they learned in pedagogical institutes many years ago. Sadly, they are teacher-centered in their approach as administrators and many are sorely outdated to keep up with the speed of the 21st century. I would like to remind them and my former students what Socrates knew: “In every person there is a sun. Just let them shine.” Today’s Kazakh and Kazakhstani students are told over and over again they are the future of Kazakhstan but their own educators are not about letting them shine as individuals with their God-given strengths and talents.
The following is what one Kazakh student wrote, which encouraged me: “I like reading. One of my favorite books is “Abai” by Muhtar Auezov. Abai was a great Kazakh poet, he lived in 1845-1904. He exposed human vices, such as greediness, covetousness, duplicity, laziness, etc. in his works. He did a lot for the enlightenment of Kazakh people. In his book Auezov describes Abai’s life, his experiences and difficulties he faced.” I need to find and read this book by Auezov in the U.S. if it has been translated into English, I doubt it though.
Finally, a British parliamentarian, Benjamin Disraeli is quoted as saying the following: “I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?” I think the following piece written by an informed Kazakh student about leadership is on the same, right track when she wrote about Olzhas Suleimenov. If only there would be some champions to push to the public awareness about human trafficking. That is today’s “nuclear sites” in rural Kazakhstan and other poorer countries in Central Asia:
“I would like to refer to one of the bright examples of leadership from Kazakh history, Olzhas Suleimenov. He is known in Kazakhstan and other countries for his political activity, poetic works and anti-nuclear activity. His name became known worldwide in 1989, when he led the movement called Nevada-Semipalatinsk. It was aimed on closing nuclear sites in the Semipalatinsk area of Kazakhstan. He showed outstanding leadership skills during this movement. It is really difficult and dangerous to rise against governmental machine of power and defend rights of people, who became victims because of nuclear testings in the region. People were talking about closing nuclear test sites, but only to each other.
And only Olzhas Suleimenov called people to fight for their rights. Olzhas Suleimenov is a person who ideally suits the word “effective leader.” First of all, he knew what he was going for. He knew the risks, aims and he know that people would follow him. At the same time, he worried for the future of his nation, he believed that people should fight for their rights. He showed responsibility towards people and was brave enough to fight for their rights. These qualities deserve admiring of this person and striving to follow suit.”