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Street children at a market place in Karakol. Poverty, neglect or trouble at home has forced many children to fend for themselves p Kyrgyz Red Crescent school in Karakol for underprivileged children children was originally begun for street children but now helps any child in trouble p Keeping children in school is an ongoing challenge for the Red Crescent.
As well as education, it offers food as an incentive to stay on p You see them working and begging on market places, hanging round railway stations, labouring in the harvest fields. They should be in school but poverty, neglect or trouble at home has obliged them to fend for themselves. When more than half the population lives below the poverty line, when unemployment is astronomical, when drug and alcohol abuse are prevalent, when crime is rising, and going to school for many is unaffordable, the consequences for children are predictable.
Sometimes, reports the Red Crescent, youngsters are simply abandoned. Her Issyk-Kul branch runs a school for underprivileged children who would otherwise not attend one. Sixteen-year-old Azamat Soronbaev is in trouble. So are his five brothers and sisters, Aigul, 18, Aida, 14, Nargiza, 12, Altynbek, 10, and five-year-old Almaz. Their unemployed father has disappeared and their mother, an alcoholic, is serving a six-year prison sentence for stealing a saddle, apparently while she was drunk.
All but Almaz attended the Red Crescent school but as their poverty deepened the older children dropped out to earn the money they need to survive. Nargiza and Altynbek stayed on but for the past few days they, too, have been missing from the classroom.
Jypara Kadyralieva goes in search of them in a rundown apartment building in one of the rougher corners of town. It is five past seven in the evening and Azamat has just come home. He is dirty and tired after a hour day in a potato field that has earned him 50 soms, around a dollar and a quarter.