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December 2, 2015
Coca-Cola: Support for Schools in Kazakhstan’s Regions Continues
The community of Arshaly, Akmola Oblast recently hosted sports festival “3-2-1-START!” The event marked the launch of a pilot program of the same name by Coca-Cola to support rural schools.
The “3-2-1-START!” program was previously held in Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan under the name “3-2-1-MOVE!” In all countries, the project has been long-term and, most importantly, socially-oriented: at the beginning of the year, prior to the program launch, Eurasia Foundation of Central Asia conducted research to evaluate the extent to which young people in Akmola and Almaty oblasts lead healthy and active lifestyles. As a result, the Arshaly region in Akmola oblast was selected as a pilot project site – research results showed that the region was in dire need of assistance developing sports and after-school activities at schools. Coca-Cola purchased sports equipment for 19 schools in the district. Today the experience of physical education has vastly improved for more than 3000 rural children; children can play sports and exercise in any weather, and they have their choice of table games, hockey, skiing, dance, gymnastics, and volleyball.
All physical education teachers and school directors attended training on management and innovative physical education teaching methods. Now, gym classes aren’t simply lessons, but a time for both teachers and students to have fun together. Everyone waits expectantly for gym class, arrives early, and stays late –children and adults alike.
Wednesday Morning, 16 degrees C…
In Arshaly district, the main stadium has a field – large and not entirely flat – and eight rows of seating, in which sit students, teachers, and local community members.
We were here at the beginning of August for Sports Day, organized by the local government. It is difficult to compare the two competitions, but the contract is significant. In August, the akim and guests greeted the community standing on a carpet; in October, they stood on a field newly-covered with artificial grass. There was less ceremony, and more celebration. The “3-2-1-START!” festival is not as much about winning and losing, and more about the mood. Speeches from officials were kept to a minimum: the akim of Arshaly region Zhomart Nurkenov says ‘thank you’ for the financial assistance, and adds, “They spent more than $100,000 on sports equipment, built a hockey rink in Nicholayevskiy School, renovated the gym in Sariobinskiy, and created a fitness hall in Izhevskiy.”
We were at the school in Izhevskiy just an hour ago, where children and the akim were given a tour of the fitness hall for gymnastics, aerobics, and yoga – a space to be used not only by children, but also by members of the local community. The opening ceremony even included the tradition of throwing sweets for good luck, or shashu, which especially thrilled the students.
Physical education teacher Lydia Abramova noted that the updated hall is already used by two groups, and she demonstrated several exercises to upbeat music with her students.
But let’s return to “Stroitel” Stadium. One hundred twenty students from eight schools are participating in sports day. They are all divided into different groups: Blue, Red, Orange, and Green. And, incredibly, gym teachers from several schools worked together for the first time to prepare students for Sports Day.
Athletes from Arshaly district run into the stadium and light the Sports Day torch. Alima Issembayeva, director of corporate relations at Coca-Cola Almaty Bottlers greets children and parents:
“I want to say a big thank you for being so active and energetic, and for your willingness to work in partnership with us. More importantly, for your enthusiasm to always engage in sports. I want to say thank you to your regional akimat, as without the support of the akimat, this project would not have been possible. I speak from experience when I say that your akimat is special. We hope that this is just the beginning. We want to see you continue to support your community and continue to support your district. Most of all, I want to express my gratitude to the teachers physical education and to the kids.”
When the company launched the project at the beginning of the year, there were district akimats which refused the company’s offer of assistance; it may have been simply inertia, or perhaps concern that the international company was serious about its offer.
“The amount allocated by the company is three times larger than our budget,” admits akim of Arshaly district Zhomart Nurkenov. “Our budget leaves much to be desired. Last year I was able to allocate only 800,000 KZT for sports equipment at Constantinov High School. But it’s not the equipment as much as people’s motivation – physical education teachers received training from Coca-Cola and already they are approaching their work differently, as we can see from this sports event. The difference between this Sports Day and the one held over the summer is considerable – surely you feel it too.”
We nod, and the akim adds, “Last year our district was ranked 18 out of 19 in sports achievements, and this year, we’re in 11th place. The last time we were able to show that kind of success was in 2002.”
Nurkenov admits that he was unsure about the company from the start. “When I was first approached by the Foundation and Coca-Cola, I took a good look and thought, why not, let’s give it a try. They went to all the schools, got the wheels turning, and I was shocked. I understood that the work was already getting off the ground. And the entire akimat began to get involved. We want to take it even further – invite [boxer] Serik Sapiyev, [hockey] team “Barys”, and hold trainings with talented athletes at Nikolayev School, where Coca-Cola built a hockey rink. I will provide buses, and we’ll take the whole region out there.”
As we’re speaking with the akim, the festival is in full swing: 120 children line up on the field and lead a warm-up. At the training held in late August for physical educational teachers, master trainers from Fidelity Club Yelena Kun and Roza Aldongarova put a strong emphasis on warm-up. Roza Aldongarova even sent a video recording of movements to show at Sports Day. This video was used during trainings for Sports Day preparation.
Yerlan Nakipbekov, physical education teacher at Arshaly School No. 2:
“We started to prepare immediately after the trainings, and worked from morning until 8 in the evening. Over there is Yuri Pavlovich, whose been running with them ever since – he points towards physical education teacher Yuri Dmitriyev. Our teaching has definitely changed, there’s a different approach to the children, and we use more music. The children like it a lot. Even when there’s bad weather, they want to exercise. For example, on Monday it was raining and nearly snowing, but the kids were out on the field, and no one got sick.
Yuliya Chernobai, student at School No. 2, has studied dance for 11 years, and for this reason was selected to lead the warm-up: she stands on the bleachers facing the group, showing movements, and students repeat:
“We received information about what we need to prepare, and on the same day I received a video, studied it, and we immediately started to learn the movements at school. Our school learned the movements in two days and we practiced the movements in the stadium. Towards the end we were rehearsing every day. Thanks to the festival, we go to know our teachers and other students better and learned to work together more effectively.”
Following the warm-up, the relay races – also learned during the trainings – got underway. The competitions use equipment given to the school by the company: balls, hoops, and jump ropes.
Then comes the final, decisive competition: tug-of-war.
Shout the fans from the stands. The Red team is announced the winner, with Green in second place, and Orange in third. The Red team has several trainers, and when I approach them, each vies to describe the team: “On our team we have girls from Anarskiy School, 25 children from School No. 3, and teachers from 3 schools, Anarskiy and Volgodonovskiy. We’re a little short on equipment, but we made do. For example, we only have two volleyballs and no jump ropes. But we make something out of nothing!”
Physical education teachers and children are awarded presents and certificates, pose for photographs, and then line up again on the field and release multicolored balloons into the sky. The strong wind takes them way up high, and then a voice is heard: “Don’t leave any garbage in the stadium!”
Festival “3-2-1-START!” has come to a close, but support for schools continues: in Arshaly new trainings will be held for teachers, and next year Coca-Cola promises to take the project to other regions of Kazakhstan.