TRANS Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 17. Nr. April 2010

Section VS 1 The multitude of Theatre of the Oppressed techniques: From Theory to Practice
Sektionsleiter | Section Chair:
Birgit Fritz (University of Vienna), Matthias Thonhauser (Art in Progress/Austria)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

English | Русский

Report: The Problems of homeless children in Osh region

Nurjamal I. Djakubova (Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic)


Homeless children of Kyrgyzstan are a phenomenon that emerged after collapse of the Soviet Union, which created social and economic problems because of impoverishment and disruption of families. Increase in the number of street and working children required urgent actions on behalf of the government and civil society. Thus, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) initiated a survey on “Poverty reduction through social integration of urban waifs in Kyrgyzstan” in 2002, which was implemented by an independent non-governmental organization, the Center for Public Opinion Survey and Forecast.

The survey pursued following objectives:

The National Scientific and Practical Conference on “Child neglect: problems and solutions” (Bishkek, September 9-10, 2002, and Osh, September 16-17, 2002) was an important event in the area of addressing the problems of street youth. The Conference was held by the National UNESCO Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic in cooperation with the Kyrgyz Government. Following objectives were accomplished during the Conference: minor (waif) escorting scheme was designed; the level of cooperation among government institutions (Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, Ministry of Education and Culture, Ministry of Health, Ministry of the Interior), as well as non-governmental and international organizations based on that scheme was identified; main areas of pilot projects focused on establishment of family and children support services were identified; needs were assessed and financial sources required to address this problem were identified; proposals regarding legal and regulatory support of the scheme were prepared.

The Conference produced a number of recommendations for the Kyrgyz Government, including stabilization (short-term objectives) and development (long-term objectives) strategies.

Now we can acknowledge that key recommendations of the Conference (2002) have been implemented. Specifically, family and children support units were established at a level of rayon state administrations, social protection departments, and within the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, under the auspices of the UNICEF and Every Child international organization. Experiment on profiling professionally – technical schools on social establishments for neglected children (for example, Professional Lyceum № 43, experience of which is well known in the Kyrgyz Republic) has been successfully carried out, the centers on granting services to street children were created. Taking into account recommendations of conference, statutory and legal acts were developed, such as Provision about bodies of trusteeship and guardianship, the instruction on support of a neglected and homeless child; the Code about children was accepted.

Besides, the Headquarters of UNESCO and the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic within the framework of the “New generation” State program on protection of the rights of children of Kyrgyzstan has carried out the large-scale project on overcoming poverty through social integration of marginal youth and homeless children. The objective of the project of UNESCO was the revealing of the state-resources for mobilization the decision of problems of neglect, the opportunities analysis of the state structures and nongovernmental organizations, search of ways of their interaction, general public informing through various sources. Experts were trained in the sphere of childhood protection and care to implement forms and methods of work with neglected and homeless children on their revealing, further life support, and protection of rights and legitimate interests of minors, who are in a difficult life situation. On the basis of training seminars, the methodical manual for the experts, working in sphere of child care, in which special attention is paid to the problem concerning social orphans, has been developed (3).

In order to draw attention of the public to a developed children position and to unite efforts under the decision of social problems, republican conferences were carried out: “Children's poverty in Kyrghyzstan: effective strategy on its elimination” (December, 6-7, 2004), “Children care standards improvement in children's establishments of Kyrghyzstan” (September, 19, 2005). National forums: “Children’s position in Kyrghyzstan: a reality and prospects” (December, 15-16, 2005, January, 2007).

But, at the same time, the present socio-economic situation in the republic does not allow to improve fully the situation of street children and working children. And we cannot say that the amount of children of risk group has decreased.

As it is shown in “The analysis of a situation in sphere of social orphanage prevention and child labour exploitation in the Kyrgyz Republic”, distress of children was substantially connected by the fact that during transformation of life-support social guarantees system of children, mechanisms of their realization were not finally generated and do not operate in full measure. Undertaken efforts appeared insufficient for overcoming the arising negative tendencies in this area and for maintenance of steady positive dynamics of childhood problems condition (4).

Not only the state structures, but also various resources of a civil society and international organizations are involved in efforts to solve problems of street and working children.

“Еvery Child” international organization works in the Kyrgyz Republic since 1999, and at present is carrying out two projects, directed on granting help and protection of the rights of street and working children in cities such as Osh, Karasuu and Bishkek. Both projects are closely interconnected and supplement each other.

“Every Child” is an international organization, the goal of which is granting help to children, separated from parents or being in risk of separation. The organization also promotes an expansion of opportunities for families, communities and state structures on granting the best environment, so that children can grow, develop and realize their potential. We support protection of the rights of children according to the Convention of the United Nations Organization on the Rights of a Child.

Our organization works in 17 countries all over the world. Work of the organization is carried out by country branches or through partnership with local nongovernmental organizations. The Headquarters of “Every Child” is in London. Since 1999 the organization has carried out several successful projects in Kyrgyzstan. In all our projects we try to make steady positive changes in a partnership with the state structures and communities.

At this moment, the “Every Child” country program in the Kyrgyz Republic focuses its activity on the help to children:

To solve problems of street children in Osh region (oblast), in cooperation with regional management of social protection, “Every Child” in 2004 developed the project based on needs and rights of street children. But before starting an initial phase of the project, it was important, as more as possible precisely, to get to know situation about street children, to reveal their needs and desires. Thereupon, a research on “Condition of street children in the city of Osh and in Osh oblast” was executed by the international consultant and technical adviser of “Every Child” Laura Boone, together with employees of the organization. The given research helped us to look at street children as on individuals, to see the places where they stay, and people who surround them, to determine their needs and aspirations. Based on it and on the information received from partners and interested persons, the organization intended to define priority problems demanding prime intervention, the further planning of actions on rendering services to street children. (5)

As a result of the actions conducted with street children (focus-group discussions, interviews using semistructured questionnaires), the features of position of street children in Osh oblast and Osh have been revealed.

Different categories of street children which were included in inspection have specific features, and the character of the measures necessary for satisfaction of their needs depends on the features.

Working children are one of the biggest groups of street children of the city of Osh. These children, who spend most of their time in the street, earning for all family or for him-/herself personally, continue living at home. Many of these children do not go to school and live in unstable families. There are small programs of preventive maintenance for this category of street children to support their families and children, to strengthen their relations inside family and to improve conditions of life.

For homeless children, who have already met difficulties of an independent street life, it is necessary to create immediately the conditions for normal development, having developed some special programs of protection. The risks, which are always present in the environment of their constant stay, are very serious. Children that spend all their time in street, face serious dangers, such as: physical and sexual pressure, prostitution, infections transmitted by sexual way (HIV, AIDS), child labour, exploitation and discrimination.

Children, who are under temporary trusteeship (Center of adaptation and rehabilitation of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, shelter “Boorukerdik” and other), make only a small part of the group of street children. However, many children from other categories can be found under temporary trusteeship, therefore, it is necessary to develop effective reintegration programs for work on reunion of children with families or on accommodation of children in an alternative family (trustees), on their distribution in training and educational centers. Such measures pertaining to interrogations cause positive reaction on the part of street children, and they are ready to join the process.

As a result of the actions which were accomplished with street children (6 focus-group discussions with 56 children and 102 interviews with a usage of semistructured questionnaires), the following features of street children position are revealed in Osh and Osh oblast:

As a result of the carried out research in families of street children (25 interviews with a usage of semistructured questionnaires) the following data was received:

As a result of the actions, conducted with partners (preliminary work with the basic group, consisting of 15 social workers, mapping, detour, focus group discussions with 15 representatives of the 3 main partner organizations, semistructured interviews), the following data was received:

Results of the actions, carried out with interested persons (semistructured questionnaires with 16 interested persons):

Thus, the given analysis allowed, on the basis of the revealed needs of street children and interest of the state structures, to begin development of the project directed on protection of the rights of children. The further plan of action covered the following directions:

  1. Training and development of practical skills of work with street children in the main group of social workers in the city of Osh and the Osh oblast. 
  2. Involving volunteers.
  3. Development of equal educational programs, with interested persons involving.
  4. Opening the day time center for children near a market in Osh within the framework of the program of support for indigent people.
  5. Development of the plan of individual actions for street children and their families. 
  6. Development of recommendations system for the incorporated work of different organizations.
  7. Development of system of school integration, job security.
  8. Creation of group responsible for lobbying and protection.
  9. Constant carrying out of researches in the city of Osh and Osh oblast.

It was important for us to have the regular review of position of street children for the further planning care for them and lobbying children’s interests. And, consequently, during realization of projects for street children in 2005, the organization gave the general review of a situation on street children in the cities of Osh and Karasuu of the Osh oblast. It included day time and night detours, semistructured interviews with street children and their parents, questioning, focus- groups with social workers, meetings with members of the project’s working group. (6)

During detours, 529 children, living and working in the street, were located and investigated; 99 of them girls, the others boys. The national structure of children – Kyrgyzs and Uzbeks – was actually almost equal. Day time detour showed that the greatest quantity of street children concentrates on markets (52 % from the general number of interrogated children), on the streets adjoining to markets 32 % of them. It is clear why - because market is a place where it is possible to find work, food and to get warm (detour was carried out in the winter). At night, street children are in computer clubs, videosalons where they first play, then in the same place fall asleep. But only those children who can pay 50 soms can sleep there, and if children do not have money, then they are compelled to spend the night in tandyrs (national stoves) near markets, in heating mains and cellars of houses. The age of children in the street ranges from 6 to 17. And the quantity of children of the age of 13 has made 20 % from the general number, the age of 14 – 18 %, the age of 15 – 14 %, the age of 12 – 13 %.  

In carrying out the detours, 150 children were interviewed, 47 of them were girls and 103 were boys. Interviews showed that most of the street children are children of Karasuu (21%), Osh (17%), Alay (16%), and Nookat (14%). There are also children who have arrived from Uzbekistan (7, 3 %) and Kazakhstan (1,3 %).

The most of children live at home – 48 %, with both parents – 36 %. In apartments, which are rented by parents or relatives, 27 % of the interviewed children live, and with friends 11 % of children live. Respondents noted that in families of internal migrants, in order to buy a habitation, everybody works, including children.

Among street children in the Osh oblast it is possible to mark out a group of working children, whose main occupation is pushing wheelbarrows. Children of the age 12-18 are engaged in it. Pushing of wheelbarrows is considered as good work since “wheelbarrowers” can earn from 100 and up to 200 soms per day. But it demands not only physical strength, but also having the documents (the birth certificate), which the owner of a wheelbarrow takes away as a pledge, and money to pay a rent of a wheelbarrow. In Karasuu city, many children of the age 6-14 are engaged in gathering and delivery of boxes. Collectors of boxes earn 50-70. In one day a child should carry 25-35 kg of cardboard, since one kilogram of cardboard costs 2 soms. Children are engaged also in cleaning of footwear, retail trade, in taking care of domestic cattle and in cleaning houses.

There is a difference in working-hours: from 140 interviewed children, the hours of 73 children depends on a kind of work, 25 children work half of day, 20 children work the full working day.

66 children give all the earned money to parents; 65 children use money for purchase of meal; 21 children spend money only on clothes; only 5 children spend money on purchase of school accessories.

It is necessary to note, that working children have not lost communication with their own families, they actually live at home, but they are forced to work because of economic difficulties of their families. Thereupon, we see as a necessity to work with a family, to grant social help to families in order to prevent their children to leave for street. Global experience shows that it is much cheaper to give help to poor families and to be engaged in prevention of children’s leave for street, than to organize further shelters and centers for street children.

There is another category of children – who have to live in the street because of their parents’ alcoholism, divorces and cruel treatment. Out of 150 interrogated children, 64 children live in the street. The children of this category live in the street for different period of time: one year (16 children), more than half-year (17 people), more than one month (16 children), 15 of them "for a long time". This fact is alarming. As it is known to experts who work with street children, the more time a child spends on the street, the more difficult it is to rehabilitate him/her and return him/her to home, to normal life, and to school. The children tell the positive sides of their stay in the street: “freedom” – 27 children, “independence” – 19; “there are no problems and many friends” – 8 children. Alongside with the positive sides, the children also tell negative sides: “cold” – 34 children, “hunger” – 16 children, “missing the house” and “there is no place to sleep” – 13 children.

 We were interested in the issue of the children’s studying, and interviewed 113 street children. Out of the total number of respondents, 39 % specified the necessity to work (therefore, they cannot study). 28 % of respondents said that they do not like studying. 12 % of children do not want to go to school because they are teased and offended there. 14 % do not go to school because it is expensive to study. 11 % of respondents said that their parents do not let them go to school. It is necessary to note that 14 % of the children did not go to school at all. It is also necessary to note that further, in focus-groups, street children said that “they are afraid to go to school because they will be teased by other children”.

In regard to health condition of the street children, most of the children are affected with weather conditions, cold or heat (44 % from 113 respondents), 22 % suffer from headache. 5 % of interviewed children are infected with tuberculosis. This is alarming, because children are in constant contact with each other, thus they create centers of disease infection. Children extremely rarely ask for help in hospitals (only 4 children noted that they were treated in a hospital or an outpatient clinic).

An insufficient food also testifies to problems of children’s health. Only 66 children, out of 148 respondents, eat 3 times a day. Bread prevails in the ration of the majority of the children. And only 14 % of them can afford to eat meat. Two children said that they eat what they find “in garbage”.

To the question: “Do you take a bath, and how often?” - 17 children answered that “they do not take bath at all”, and “what for should they take a bath?” 43 children answered that they take a bath once a month; 28 – once a week. The others didn’t answer at all to the question.

Investigating various stresses that street children suffer from, the following were noted: militia – 16 %; loneliness – 13 %; no place to sleep – 12%; cruel treatment – 7 %; fights – 10 %; other – 39 % (problems in family, shortage of money, taking away money, difficulties in getting work / money); no stress – 3 %.

The majority of children in a stressful situation do not show visible reactions (61 %), some fight – 15 %, some use alcohol – 11 %, and some children cry.

Also, the question concerning children’s awareness of their own rights was posed to them. 36 % of respondents answered that they know about that: about the right to live with family, about the right on getting education, about the right to be protected from violence, about the right to health insurance. Only 16 children think that their rights are respected by adults; 29 children consider that adults violate their rights, that parents beat them and do not want to recognize their rights.

Many children would like to get support, and parents can help them – 38 %; some do not require extraneous support and can get help only from him-/herself – 32 %; some say that nobody can help them – 9 %; some rely on the government’s help – 8 %. Some cannot answer – 12 %.

The analysis of the focus- groups showed that main problems for street children are: money, the house, mother and father, lack of friends, clothes, relatives, local residents (Osh); the longing for mother, meal; father who gets drunk and beats instead to feed family (Kara-Suu). They see the reasons in shortage of money; there is no roof above their head; they live with relatives; they have large family; illiteracy. Children specified their needs: parents, knowledge and education, the house, friends, a sports hall, the day time center, bread, money, car (Osh). Children from Kara-Suu also noted: the warm place for lodging at night, parental caress and attention, no clothes. In the focus- groups with children from the city of Osh, they told that are afraid of the “drunkards”, sick fools, militia, those who threat with a pistol, that grown-ups beat, that they suffer bad company. Children from Kara-Suu noted that they are afraid of militia, snakes, the shaitan, and the God. Last representations are probably connected to traditional beliefs, and in part to illiteracy of children. It is interesting that in the interviews with street children in 2004, after mentioning their fear of God and death, children frequently mention fear of drugs, alcohol and snakes. Snakes are not usually present in cities, so we assume that children mention them because this animal is  associated with evil, poison, danger, and causes fear.

Children connect their future expectations with a dream to become a lawyer, to have a house, to be rich, to receive skills, to work in the day time center, to receive a profession of a doctor. “To become a militiaman or a driver of militia car”, “to become Mullah” – shows the desire of children to have influence, respect, and authority.

To a question: “Do children know about the Center of adaptation and rehabilitation for minors of  Ministry of Internal Affairs system (CARM)?”, children answered: “they many times got there”, “all the same would run away”, “they are forced to work – to wash cars, to sweep”, “they beat”, “they did not talk to us about anything, but only shouted”. The given answers of children were not ignored; the authorities of the CARM of the city of Osh were informed about that. Those answer served as an occasion for discussion of the CARM’s work and inspections on affairs of minors in order to improve the work with homeless children.

The project group planned to meet the parents of street and working children for carrying out an interview. For this purpose, we asked children for permission. The majority of interrogated children (70) did not want us to meet their parents – 46 % of them. They explained it: “Parents do not want to know where I am and what I do” – 13 children; “Parents do not care”, “They do not love me” – 31 children; and 31 children do not want anybody to come.

The analysis of results of semistructured interviews with families of street children has shown that the main cause of their coming to Osh is their search for work and better conditions. There were families which live in rented apartments for several years, there are also some who have just arrived recently. But all of them are characterized by bad living conditions, low income, absence of support, and problems with health. Families would like to get economic and social support.

All the above testifies that problems of street children cannot be resolved without, primarily, thorough social work with families and providing support to families who are in need.

 The research on the condition and position of street children in the Osh oblast, the regular analysis and an estimation of projects on street children enable us to see the real picture, allowing us to build further activity on protection of the rights and legitimate interests of children more effectively. It is necessary to take into account that, according to the estimations made in Osh oblast, street children were not an object of attention and care of either nongovernmental or international organizations. Based on results of researches on the condition of street children, made by “Every Child” international organization, day time centers in two large cities of Osh oblast, Osh and Kara-Suu, were created. Trainings of social workers to make them learn methods of work with street children, and in particular, outreach work, volunteer movement, development of children's participation, undoubtedly, make a step forward in solving the problems of street children. However, at the same time, we understand that the efforts of only one organization for support of street children won’t be enough, and the revealed needs of the target group in Osh oblast demand a multilateral approach; the work of different experts, interdepartmental interaction of the state structures, help of other international organizations and civil participation are necessary in heling the children.



  1. Problems of city street youth in Kyrghyzstan / Center of Public Opinion Studying and Forecasting: Ilibezova E., Ilibezova L., Chekirov A., Musakozhaeva A., Toktosunov R./, Computer imposition by Seleznev Е. – Bishkek: 2003. – p. 75.
  2. Materials of national scientific and practical conference on “problems of children's neglect and a way of their solving” (September, 9-10, 2002, Bishkek; September, 16-17, 2002, Osh).
  3. There are no another's children. The methodical manual for the experts working in sphere of a childhood protection./ Editorial board: Toktosunova A.I., Kulevtsova T.I., Dzhakubova N.I., etc. / National commission KR on affairs of UNESCO, Bishkek, 2004.
  4. The analysis of a situation in sphere of social orphanhood prevention and exploitation of child labour in the Kyrgyz Republic (an analytical note) – М., 2004. – p. 30.
  5. Research: Condition of street children in the city of Osh and the Osh oblast., Laura Boone, July – September, 2004.
  6. The report on the organizational estimation of the project. An estimation of a situation with street children in Osh and Kara-Suu./ Bishkek, Omurbekova N., November – December, 2005.

VS 1 The multitude of Theatre of the Oppressed techniques: From Theory to Practice

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For quotation purposes: Nurjamal I. Djakubova: Report: The Problems of homeless children in Osh region - In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 17/2008. WWW:

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