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Slaves Freed from Brick Factories in India

I had my composition students watch the trailer of the documentary “Dark Side of Chocolate” yesterday. I am happy that the full 45 minutes is up on YouTube.  I also had them watch a video of Sheryl WuDuun talk about what she knows of human trafficking.  She and her husband Nicolas Kristof co-authored a book titled “Half the Sky.” Both clips certinaly got the attention of my students.  The following should stir the students’ blood after reading this latest blog from IJM (Intl. Justice Mission). I have seen similar stories or read somewhere about the brick factories in India and how people are tricked into working there…very sad!

IJM Bangalore: A Runaway Brother’s Call For Help Brings Rescue

Fri, 03/01/2013

IJM Bangalore helped rescue the children trapped in forced labor slavery
The siblings were enslaved in a brick kiln outside Bangalore, far from their home village in a neighboring state.

BANGALORE, INDIA – This week, a family of six was set free from slavery in an Indian brick kiln. Over the last couple of weeks, several of the siblings had escaped, making the brick kiln all the more dangerous for those who were left behind.

Tricked Once, Trapped For Good

On February 11 2013, IJM Bangalore got a desperate call for help. The caller was a young man named Prasham.* Prasham had escaped from a brick kiln where he and his siblings had been held captive for about six months.

Prasham relayed a terrible story. The three brothers and their sister were lured into the brick kiln with a hefty advance – a large amount of money that was more than their family had ever dreamed of. The siblings agreed to repay it through their work, but when they arrived they quickly realized they had been tricked. They were paid pennies for their work – about $5 a week. They were trapped.

The labor intensive process of baking clay bricks under the hot sun was back-breaking. Prasham told of a time when his sister was sick, and yet the owner forced her to keep working. He said one of the owner’s men, a watchman, beat his sister, and threatened Prasham when he tried to stand up for her.

Prasham said that the brick kiln owner let the brothers and sister take a short leave in January, to go home for an important Indian holiday. When the siblings didn’t return to the kiln, the owner traveled to their village to track them down. Prasham and his sister successfully hid themselves, but his little brothers, 9 and 13, were taken by the owner.

The two young boys were locked up in a small shed every night, let out only to work. They were forced to work even if they were sick, and if they spoke of illness they were kicked. But somehow, the boys managed to escape.

Two Brothers Escape, Another Held Hostage

At the end of February, IJM learned that situation in the brick kiln had worsened. The brick kiln owner allegedly went to a nearby brick kiln and kidnapped Prasham’s older brother. The brash owner locked them up and threatened to keep them hostage until Prasham and his brothers returned. Prasham said that the owner and his managers called him, telling him that they would “break my brother’s hands and legs if we don’t return back to the brick kiln.”

IJM moved quickly and took the case to the government official who has the authority and responsibility to root out forced labor slavery in his district. Within two days, on February 26, 2013, IJM staff and government officials were en route to the brick kiln.

The brick kiln owner at first denied that he was harboring Prasham’s older brother. But when the government official leading the operation demanded that the owner produce the young man at once, the owner changed his story. The owner said the young man was on his way back to the brick kiln. But the IJM and government rescue team found the young man on the road, being led away from the kiln.

Freedom At Last

The government official heard the stories from all of the brothers and sister, including the older brother who had been locked up for two days. The official determined that all six deserved release certificates, legal documents that declare them free and entitle them to certain government benefits.

A police report was also filed, to ensure the siblings remain safe while evidence is collected to build a case against the brick kiln owner.

An IJM social worker escorted the family back to their village, in the neighboring state, and they will now join IJM’s aftercare program. IJM will follow up to make sure they remain safe and are able to restart their lives in freedom by getting back to school or finding good jobs.

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My Main Goals for Teaching in KZ (Part III)

If you have been tracking with me the last several days, I am all about teaching. Being an educator in Kazakhstan can be a bit tricky.  Those Kazakhs who are dedicated teachers receive a low salary but teach on just the same. I’m humbled by those I have been in contact with the three and half years I’ve lived in Kazakhstan.  Unfortunately, those teachers who have very good English skills have been wooed away by large corporations that can pay a much better salary for their translation of English to Russian or Kazakh.  While others are BORN teachers and know they belong in the elementary or secondary classrooms of Kazakhstan whether urban or rural settings.  In some cases, a few teachers do not raise their own young children as their parents take care of the grandchildren while they are living in the capital city of Astana to educate other Kazakh’s children.

Teachers are a dedicated lot and they clearly are not in this profession for the money, at least that is true for me.  I’m not in Kazakhstan for the money but rather the rewards of making a difference in the lives of a few who can make a major impact on others.  My husband and I feel we are “called” to be here in Astana, Kazakhstan and thus the word “vocation” has a special meaning for us.  Teaching is my vocation and my calling.  See what this dedicated Kazakh teacher wrote about creativity and her own teaching and raising her daughter:

“Let me give you an example from a hard working Kazakh teacher who admits that the kind of teaching she has done in the past may need to change, she sees it with bringing up her own daughter.  Here’s what she wrote when I had her respond to a talk on given by Sir Ken Robinson titled “Schools Kill Creativity”:

“I mostly  liked  the speaker, who  spoke  about  schools  killing  students’  creativity, really  less  attention  is paid on students’  creativity  and  their own growth in my country.  I’m saying this with great confidence,  because   as being  a mother and  a teacher  I focus  my students’  attention  on  the main subjects, namely,  mathematics  and   languages, nothing  more. In this way I absolutely agree with  Sir Robinson , who  gave  the audience  true  examples  how   parents and teachers  both   kill   kids’  creativity, making them learn mathematics  and  English more than other subjects. After his speech I understood my own mistake, for example, my daughter is only  seven years  and  she  draws  very  amazing   pictures. Unfortunately, I don’t allow her to keep on drawing, because I hate drawing myself   and  want  her to  be brilliant at Mathematics and English.  So, I notice, how I am slowly  killing her creativity.  Sir Robinson proved  everything  with great  facts, which  appear  in the  worldwide  and needs  to  be supervised  much  by the government.”

I conducted an initial survey that I called “Education in a Modernizing Society” and I got a total of 30 respondents who are Kazakh. Then I did another online survey with only ten questions, I got 19 people to answer my ten True/False questions.  The following are what I learned from those who have been on the Bolashak program or other exchanges that have exposed them to education in U.K. or U.S.

  1. All Kazakh schools and universities should employ teachers who are strict, authoritative figures:  T=47.4% F=52.6%
  2. All Kazakh teachers should be very easygoing and less dogmatic in their teaching. T=89.5% F=10.5%
  3. All Kazakh teachers should enable their students to tolerate uncertainty and handle risk. T=94.7% F=5.3%
  4. All schools and universities throughout Kazakhstan should inspire obedience to the collective rather than academic achievement. T=5.6% F=94.4%
  5. All Kazakh schools and universities should reform quickly by re-educating Soviet trained teachers in new kinds of pedagogies. T=84.2% F=15.8%
  6. Kazakh teachers should be rewarded if they are committed to learning along with their students and coloring “outside the lines.” T=94.4% F=5.6%
  7. All schools and universities throughout Kazakhstan should suppress initiative and independent thought: T=26.3% F=73.7%
  8. All schools and universities should instill loyalty and compliance to the teachers wishes and demands. T=42.1% F=57.9%
  9. Kazakh students should be encouraged and allowed to think for themselves. T=94.7% F=5.3%

10. All Kazakh schools and universities should nurture their students self-expression by expanding and improving their writing skills in English T=89.5% F=10.5%

The responses are representative of those former graduate students who are now employed as former Bolashak scholars and now working at the new university.  The only two questions that I need to research and finetune are questions #1 and #8.  Perhaps that is something I can explore further with my Orken teachers and PDP students. Maybe the re-wording of these two questions will make it less ambiguous.  The rest of the questions with their answers begs for this PDP program to continue and to have 100% backing from those in authority who want to improve the educational system of this country.

(to be continued)

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Astana All A-Buzz After the Summit

One of my regular taxi drivers this morning was in earnest to talk to me about the GREAT summit which finished yesterday in Astana. Over fifty-five countries were represented with some of their top leaders.   EVERYONE in Astana is still talking about it and even with my limited Russian listening comprehension and the driver’s German-Russian-English-Kazakh combinations of speech, Yaheya got some of his points across.  As we drove the short distance from my flat (worth 500 tenge to him) this morning to the university, we saw policemen in their blue camo uniforms still standing at every bus stop and police cars everywhere.  I can only imagine that it was even more heavily secure during the two days of the summit.  I wouldn’t know, I was cooped up for those days in my flat. Yaheya explained there were police who were brought in from neighboring cities. We were ALL made to feel secure, that’s for sure.  Those poor policemen standing outside for hours on end would have been cold too because it was a very harsh, strong wind from the west.  How did they cope those two LONG days during the summit?

How did the people who attended the LONG summit, cope? My loquacious driver wanted to talk about Hillary Clinton. Yes, I’m sure she made quite a hit and now she is in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Brave woman. The name Monica came up and so I knew where our conversation was heading. I insisted I didn’t understand what he was saying. I actually feel sorry for Hillary, she has had the equivalent of wikileaks 100 times over throughout her very public life, so she must have a very thick skin by now. Enough about Hillary, or is it?

Had fun in my Friday class of English for some of the university librarians who need to brush up on their speaking skills.  On one of the handouts I used today with a few of my remedial learners, the questions were such 1) what is your name? 2) How old are you? 3) Where do you live? 4) Do you have a car? 5) What languages do you speak? 6) Do you smoke? 7) What music do you like 8 ) What TV programmes do you like? 9) What food do you like? 10) What newspaper do you read? 11) What sports do you play?  With four women, some older and others younger, I was able to give them different identities based on the latest Summit.  The first was to answer all 11 questions as if she were Hillary, next we had Sarkozy represented, then Medvedev and finally Yanokovich from Ukraine.  We were laughing at the creativeness of the answers, thinking how absurd some of the questions were posed to these very important people.  When asked about which cars they drove, the one person answered, Zaparocha, Lada and Niva.  When asked about food, the person in French character said escargot and then the Russian word for frogs.  What we really laughed about was one of the characters when asked about what newspaper he read – “nothing.”  Oy, one of these politicians is known to my adult learner students as a non-reader.  Anathema to librarians!!!

If you really want to know more about why the banners, displays and billboards all over Astana, go to the following website. Alexandre Keltchewsky, the Ambassador of this organization in Kazakhstan came and talked to our international women’s group in October.  I have my notes about what he talked about somewhere, I may retrieve them and blog about it tomorrow. To sum up, this was the seventh such Summit in this organization’s history. Previous summits were held 1975 in Helsinki, 1990 in Paris, 1992 in Helsinki, 1994 in Budapest, 1996 in Lisbon and 1999 in Istanbul.

Then for my last class of the day today, I had my PDP students look at the results of my survey in ppt format on Web Survey Master.  I got 26 responses so far from my expat friends in Astana and Almaty about “expat’s impressions of Kazakhstan.” Some of the answers were hilarious, others candid and sincere.  One of my students said this wasn’t PDP class anymore but “laughing class.”  We had a good time talking about the results while I was trying to stress true and accurate statistics.  We ended on an even higher note with watching Sir Ken Robinson giving a talk on about “Education Kills Creativity.”  Quite a funny speech with very good examples.  We clapped at the end just like the audience did.  So ended our day, a post-summit kind of day with more excitement to come next week…stay tuned!!!

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