S. Kyrgyzstan migrants seek to be more competitive

Russian language and culture studies prepare for work abroad

By Bakyt Ibraimov

2012-05-24

OSH – Osh resident Ulugbek Ergashev, 24, intends to migrate to Yekaterinburg, Russia, but he wants to be prepared.

“I want to join my relatives who work in Yekaterinburg in a factory,” he said. “It won’t hire you unless you know Russian, and to make sure I get hired, I’ve been attending Russian courses since last autumn.”

Migrant workers who don’t know Russian are often compelled to work as yard cleaners or unskilled labourers in Russia, Ergashev said.

“My brothers drive forklifts,” he said. “I want to get that kind of job, too.”

Ergashev is learning Russian through a free programme offered by the NGO Uralsky Dom, in conjunction with AWO Heimgarten of Germany and another local NGO, Ulybka.

Language skills are key

On May 7, Russia announced plans to test the Russian-language skills of migrant workers. But even before that announcement, NGOs started offering courses on Russian language, Russian culture and professional skills in an effort to help Kyrgyz find better jobs abroad. And the government recently got more involved in such training efforts.

“We have groups of 20 for those who wish to go to Russia to contract for temporary jobs,” said Alyona Smirnova, Russian-language project co-ordinator at Uralsky Dom. “We offer 40-hour courses in Russian and have already prepared three groups, 60 people in all, each of whom received a completion certificate.”

The Russian Centre, on the Osh branch campus of Russian State Social University, also offers Russian language classes.

“We are open to cultural and humanitarian co-operation; our main goal is to popularise Russian and support Russian-language programmes,” Russian Centre Director Zemfira Miskichekova told Central Asia Online. “With assistance from Kyrgyzstani government agencies, our centre has taught the basics of Russian to 89 people, most of whom have already found jobs in St. Petersburg, Leningrad Oblast and other Russian regions.”

Such training is vital, Youth, Labour and Employment Minister Aliyasbek Alymkulov said in Bishkek May 10.

“We can’t stop migration flows, so we must help our citizens learn Russian,” he said. “We have a successful pilot project under way in Osh, offering a special Russian-language course for migrants from Batken, Dzhalal-Abad and Osh oblasts.”

Similar programmes will be launched for prospective migrants to Turkey or South Korea, so they can obtain insurance and decent salaries in those countries, Alymkulov added.

Trade skills, job placement are also offered

Local authorities in southern Kyrgyzstan are following the lead of the NGOs, but from a trade angle.

“We give migrants the opportunity to learn the skills of a milling machine operator, lathe operator, metalworker, etc. – trades that are in demand in Russia,” Ermek Raimkulov, chairman of the Osh City Committee for Migration and Employment, said. “The training courses are held at Vocational School No. 16 in Osh. Youth can acquire (the essential) technical skills after a three-month course there.”

And Uralsky Dom doesn’t stop with the language courses; it also helps students find jobs and housing abroad, Smirnova said.

Ismail Kasymbekov, 37, of Dzhalal-Abad, will soon be reaping the benefits of that and his new-found language ability.

“I worked at a construction site in Kazan; we (Kyrgyz) earned 8,000-12,000 RUB (11,400-17,100 KGS) a month – while Russians were paid at least 25,000 RUB (35,700 KGS) for the same work,” Kasymbekov said, recalling an earlier trip to Russia as an illegal labourer.

“After taking a course in Russian, I can understand and speak that language now,” he said.

Using Uralsky Dom as a facilitator, “I’ve sent all the necessary documents to Zarechny, Sverdlovsk Oblast, where they’ve found a vacancy in a construction company, where I’ll work officially,” Kasymbekov said.

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