ASTANA – With the assistance of the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United States and the international cultural and educational organization Raindrop, the children of our compatriots in the United States can now learn their native language.
The Shanyraq Foundation, a Kazakh cultural and educational non-profit organization operating in Houston, has opened a learning centre for Kazakh children in Houston to help them learn more about Kazakh culture and traditions. The school opened its doors for the first time in September 2012, but the official opening of the school was dedicated to Kazakhstan’s Independence Day, which takes place in December.
The Raindrop Turkish House provides classrooms and training materials were collected from the parents of school children. To date, six teachers work in the school on a voluntary basis. Some are parents of students there. The volunteer teachers, in cooperation with The Shanyraq Foundation and teachers in Houston, developed the curriculum for the school on the Kazakh textbook “Alippe,” which uses the Kazakh Cyrillic alphabet. Other matters relating to school provisions, financials, extra activities for registered children and their parents are decided by the board members of The Shanyraq Foundation. The head of the study centre is Merzet Alip.
At the moment, 20 children are enrolled in Kazakh language and culture classes. The students are divided into two groups: Balapan (“chick” in Kazakh), which includes children from 3 to 6 years old, and Tulpar (the name of a mythical winged horse in Kazakh tradition) for children from 7 to 12 years old. Classes are held on Sundays. In addition to learning from the “Alippe” textbook, the students learn songs, poems and proverbs, study national dances and play national instruments. Every registered child learns Kazakh, some of whom were on the verge of forgetting their mother tongue or had not had a chance to learn it.
Students at the school regularly perform Kazakh dances, songs and poetry at events organized by the foundation in Houston. The school’s results are recognized and appreciated by the Kazakh community in Houston that attends the children’s performances. Parents of students are happy with the results so far. Upon the successful completion of the programme, each student will receive a certificate from The Shanyraq Foundation.
Currently, the Kazakh learning centre plans to expand, as the number of people wishing to enroll in classes is increasing steadily. After the registration of the Kazakh American Alliance, the learning centre expects to get official status by being recognized by education officials in the Houston area. The centre has also asked the Ministry of Education and Science of Kazakhstan for assistance and cooperation. If in the future, funding becomes available from businesses or Kazakhstan’s institutions, the school hopes to grow to have its own building, professional full-time teachers, modern didactic materials and other supporting structures and staff. Until that time, the centre will depend on voluntary contributions from parents and ethnic Kazakhs for whom the promotion of the Kazakh language is important.