English lessons

It’s been almost a month since we came to Kyrgyzstan, but we are feeling as we’d arrived yesterday. Time flies and so much is happening that, we don’t even have a minute to sit down and write about what we’re doing. Kyrgyzstan astonished us with its wonderful nature and amazed with the hospitality and friendliness of its inhabitants. We live next to the Parish so we meet local people on daily bases. Every day there is someone new coming to the Parish: friends of Father Remigiusz and Brother Damian, people asking for support for their family or for English lessons, sometimes it’s just someone who is hungry.

The number of teachers in Kyrgyzstan has decreased in the last years, as a lot of people moves to Russia to search for better salaries and life conditions. To be honest, I don’t blame them, a teacher in Kyrgyzstan makes about 45$ a month, which is not enough to support a family. Due to this difficult situation, lessons at schools are carried out in a shift system. Some of the children have lessons from 8am till 11am., others form 4pm till 7pm. Youngest children stay at school only for about two hours a day, which makes it even more difficult for the parents who have to juggle work and looking after their children.

Our main activity in Kyrgyzstan is teaching English and this absorbs most of out time. The lessons are for children, teens and adults and they are free of charge, that’s why the demand sometimes exceeds the supply. If we agreed on everything that our students’ offer considering English lessons we wouldn’t even have time to sleep. People want to come to English lessons every day and because they have different schedules they are counting on us to fit into their lives. In reality to satisfy everybody we would have to have lessons from dusk till dawn, but since we don’t want to end up in some recovery facility after volunteering in Kyrgyzstan, we had to make some compromises. We agreed on seven groups in Jalal-abad, who have lessons twice a week and two groups in Osh once a week.

The interest in our English courses is very big, also among the students from Foreign Languages Faculty. Since their level of English is quite low, I assumed that they study such languages as: Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Russian or Turkish. I was very surprised to find out that they study English, German and Russian. I wasn’t sure how is it possible that someone after 3 years of studying English has problems with basic vocabulary or even introducing themselves. Unfortunately in Kyrgyzstan, education can be some of an illusion, a degree and a diploma are important, but a lot of times students pay bribes to pass their exams and that’s how they get to the next year of University.

EVS provides a language course for their volunteer, so we got enrolled in a private language school, where we have Russian lessons. This allowed us to understand how the lessons are conducted in Kyrgyzstan. In general private schools represent a higher level and a better program than public schools, that’s why we can only imagine how boring the lessons at schools and universities have to be. Our course is based on reading the text that we cannot read and cannot understand. Classes should take an hour and a half, but usually for some reason (our teacher is sick, she has something very important to do, she has to catch the last bus home etc.) we finish after one hour. I must say that we don’t really mind, because after this hour we are usually so bored and exhausted that we too want to go home.

Knowing how classes in Kyrgyzstan look like, we do our very best to make our lessons interesting. During our classes children sing songs, do a lot of drawing, coloring and other games. Kids really enjoy this completely new approach to English and come to the lessons with pleasure. It’s similar with teens and adults. In the beginners groups we try to play games, do crossword puzzles and riddles. In the intermediate groups we encourage discussions and a lot of students are amazed that someone wants to know their opinion and patiently waits until they put together few sentences. In these groups we also watch movies, listen to music and play charades.

We have a lot of work, because preparing different games and activities is very time consuming, but when our students laugh and engage themselves during classes we know it was worth it. Sometimes when the lesson is finished our students thank us and praise the interesting ideas, from time to time they will also ask us to cover a certain topic during our lessons next week. We are both open to new ideas and issues, but because of the difficult situation in Kyrgyzstan we try to avoid talking about religion and politics. Together with Marysia we are still a bit overwhelmed with the new culture and so many new experiences, but our work as English teachers brings us a lot of satisfaction and through discussions with our students, it allows us to find out more about everyday life in Kyrgyzstan.

Karolina Rasinska

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