Posts tagged CIS

Human Rights are Becoming “Endangered Species” (Part VI)

The above title and following essay was written by a former student of mine in Astana, Kazakhstan. She was greatly impacted by what Marinka Franulovic wrote in her book “Two Kyrgyz Women.”  I liked the title of her piece, see for yourself what her thoughts are on this matter:

Nowadays people who know law can live happily and well. Bosses on the top always tell what you have to do but not everybody knows what rights every citizen has, especially in our country, Kazakhstan. I suppose that such problems are not so sharp abroad. I feel that in our young country only limited circle of people who are familiar with law and can protect themselves properly by right. Such lack of knowledge influences on increasing the number of victims who suffer from someone else’s pressure. Even though some people are aware of their rights, anyone can be in danger because their employers can break the law of human rights about working conditions, freedom of movement or security.

Most people do not work totally or have a job but with meager salary, or even do not receive money several months entirely. To solve this situation I offer to provide each school leaver with opportunity to get free high education. Obligatory school education is free of charge in Kazakhstan but then some teenagers become spongers who cannot or do not want to work. Those who are eager to improve oneself must have a chance to go to courses of professional development. Most employees are faced with corruption while applying for work. Therefore, it should be organized contests in which anyone who has appropriate abilities and knowledge can be hired. It would be more correct and fair that way. But most workers cannot get money which they have earned during months or even years.  Judicial process is so protracted and may be unjustified. Only few people who want, dare to have legal proceeding with their bosses. We must establish the special department which will control the people’s salary, fine (even prison) those who do not pay salaries to workers. It must be very strict and regularly checked in order to eliminate such lawbreakers.

A lot of unemployed people or just young students have a chance to work abroad. But after arriving they can suffer from employers who keep workers under lock and key and even can fetter in order to have free work labour. Swindled people, especially foreigners, do not have freedom of movements. In order to avoid such problems people must be aware of ways on how to address their requests and survive. “By the end of the summer, Ainura left Bishkek without knowing the name of its main square.” (Two Kyrgyz women Franulovic, M. p.15) It will be better to organize a helpline, for example, 919 like 911, to help such people. Everyone must know that he or she can receive help and be safe. The information about this helpline should be located in customs, airports, train or bus stations, public transports and any crowded places. Every person must know those whom they can ask help and how to get connected with police, embassy or other organizations.

Such helpline can solve another problem – security problem. If any recruitment companies exist, they must be controlled and checked by special department. In order to find better jobs, people try to look for it abroad. They can be in danger because some lawbreakers take the passports from their employees.  “I had no money, I did not know the city, I did not speak the language, and she (Adele) held my passport. (Two Kyrgyz women Franulovic, M. p.130) And then “new workers” become illegal and are afraid to go to the police. One decision is to make this problem more solvable; it is to set common electronic identity cards for all countries, at least for CIS. It will be easy to find and help people who perhaps are lost. “After two weeks on the farm, Altynay was gone. Nobody knew where, but they all suspected why.” (Two Kyrgyz women Franulovic, M. p.33) Regular controls and checkups of “new citizen-workers” can save their own lives.

In conclusion, there are a lot of problems of vital importance concern with human rights which must be solved in order to save people’s lives. All of us must know and attend to carry out our own duties but at the same time remember and exercise the rights in case of need.

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Kazakh’s Post Soviet Thoughts vs. Westerners’ Post-Modernist Thinking

The other day I posted my Professional development students’ reactions and feedback about an American embassy person’s talk.  Some interesting insights into the Kazakh mentality were revealed in the students’ responses. Subsequently, my husband sent that blog entry to an old Kazakh friend of his and the following are his post Soviet thoughts:

“I think it is difficult to adjust western structural ideas to CIS realities because history and present is absolutely different and most important is the fact that people are very different, their attitude to each other. Even for you after staying in CIS so long there are many questions you can’t understand. As you know, all bad things from your world have been picked up very quickly because people were ready to accept those with enthusiasm. But to introduce good things like agricultural extension…takes many efforts.

For example, the book of which Raj Paroda and Madina Musaeva are co-authors is a good example. Actually, it was not the book written for Central Asia, it was just book written by an Indian scientist and translated from English into Russian about five years ago. Who has read this book? What is its value then? I don’t think that one more book explaining what is extension system in USA will help farmers in Central Asia. It is my opinion but it doesn’t mean that the book should not be written. In general I am in a 10% group of skeptical people you know.

Student’ comments are in general correct. But people from embassy of Kazakhstan in USA would also visit American universities when they are invited and would interact with American students just like yours with our students. But he is right that feature of Kazakh chinovniks to show their superiority to common people. In this respect I am also not a typical Kazakh. People always make notes that I am not looking like an academician because they got used to recognizing academicians from first look. All those guys are looking at students with haughtiness and arrogance. And this is normal in our society while my behavior is abnormal.

Dishonesty in education. Suppose that I give impression that I miss Soviet Union making comments about present life. I was also critical of SU but there were many very good things in that society as well. One thing is obvious that dishonesty in education was not an issue. Both professors and students were very different as distinct from today’s realities. In SU for professors it would never occur to take bribes from students while today it seems to become a normal thing, everybody talks about it, including also defending degrees.

Incidentally from now on an old system of defending degrees of candidates and doctors is abolished. Again, first of all because of dishonesty in that system. You may imagine that in SU times there were some five-six doctors of agricultural economics, now there are close to one hundred and you know most of them. “

(to be continued)

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UNICEF and Kazakhstan’s Youth

UNICEF and Kazakhstan’s youth:  This morning I heard an amazing speaker at the Astana Intl. Women’s club meeting which meets monthly at the Radisson hotel.  She emphatically stated that she LOVES the organization of UNICEF, I think her name was Hannah. She related an account of where she was in some African country where she witnessed a reuniting of a young girl with her mother after civil war that tore many families apart. She first showed a film about all the different things that UNICEF does for the sake of children around the world.  Immunizations, water, nutrition, education, other health issues, orphanages, rights of children, juvenile delinquency…she touched on many topics.  I wish I had taken notes because she also had a lot of statistics that she quoted related to Kazakhstan in particular.

Of course, as a teacher, what I was most interested in what she said about Kazakhstan’s young people relating to education.  She claimed that after Russia, Kazakhstan has the highest suicide rate.  She didn’t elaborate whether that was in the rural areas of this country or among the privileged.  Those students I am used to seeing are in westernized schools in Almaty and Astana.  The young people I work with know English, have traveled, come from good families and have hope.  Hannah said after Russia and Kazakhstan there is a big drop in the statistics and again I was curious what other countries she was referring to, did that mean C.I.S. countries only or in the whole world?  Certainly there is much poverty in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kygyzstan, etc.  Why would Russia and Kazakhstan be so ranked with high suicide rates among the youth?

Once back at work, I talked to a young woman who majors in physics at a local university in Astana.  I asked her what she knew about suicide among youth in Kazakhstan.  She said she had heard of an instance recently where a young girl committed suicide when she found out the results of her qualifying exam to get into university did not make the grade.  You hear of these instances happening perhaps in China where the competition is very tight and there are few vacancies for letting students into their university system.  Here in Kazakhstan, I don’t know.  I need to explore that issue about depression, societal stresses and suicide of the Kazakh youth.  I know in the school system there is much pressure for them to succeed in learning in three languages (Kazakh, Russian and English).

The UNICEF speaker also went on to explain that immunizations for polio and also for tuberculosis need to be re-instated.  There has been an outbreak (I think in the Chymkent area?) of that where it was thought to have been eradicated since 1988.  Also, people who might have contracted HIV/AIDS are too ashamed to seek help.  One woman who had been infected by her husband would not take the medication that could have saved her life. She did not want to be stigmatized with having AIDS.  To her, that was worse than death, if her family learned of her AIDS, she would have been considered a social outcast.

The most shocking was about how there is still the hold-over of Soviet thinking among the doctors in Kazakhstan.  Their one and only definition of a live birth is if the baby is breathing air on its own. However, according to international standards of what is considered “live births,” set up by the organization WHO, there are 14-16 different ways to see if a baby, once born, is alive by checking palpitation of heart or other vital signs.  All those signs are ignored due to the old Soviet training of doctors that still exists in hospitals.  When I talked to a foreign doctor who is western trained, she said that perhaps if those babies who are birthed with complications, they might have defects or disabilities that families would not be able to take care of due to the expense.

One other thing mentioned was that many children who end up in orphanages in Kazakhstan are not actually orphans (defined by a child without father or mother) but they are castoff children and do indeed have a parent still living.  Our speaker said this concept of children being taken over by the government is another carry-over from the Soviet period where this was actually encouraged so as to train up the children according to the State-controlled regimen.  Hannah ended with a answer to a question among the group of about 40 women that the Kazakhs need to return to their own tradition of taking care of their OWN family and not giving up children to orphanages because many times if they have been institutionalized, they are without good job skills to enter the work force at age 18 when they are turned out to fend for themselves.

One foreign woman said that she and other expats had worked on a charity to improve the conditions of the orphanages because the toilets and showers were deplorable.  Our speaker said that this was a very delicate issue because if there is not better social networking to adopt these children into Kazakh families and have that working, it only encourages more people to “throw away” these young children into the orphanages that might have better conditions than what they are currently living in. She said it was more important for children, even living in poverty, to grow up in their own families or be adopted by relatives (just like what used to be done before the Soviet period) than to institutionalize children in orphanages.  She said it was important for charities to work and improve the conditions of the places where children currently are kept but better to NOT have so many “social orphans” in Kazakhstan.  If orphanages look better than a home in poverty, more and more children would be dumped.

Our speaker representing UNICEF had to rush off to another engagement so I didn’t have a chance to ask her my main question about depression and suicide among Kazakh youth.  She obviously has strong emotions about what she does for a living, obviously she LOVES children.

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