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Development Cooperation University of Wuppertal and three Bishkek Universities – Growing Up in Kyrgyzstan: Structures and Conditions

 

There are still remaining uncharted territories on the map of childhood sociology – one of them is Kyrgyzstan. There is neither literature on growing up there available in international journals and editions, nor are researchers, presenting related insights at international meetings. We even lack data on the current situation. Nonetheless, there are Kyrgyz researchers interested in working on this topic and there are agencies and institutions, highly interested in any research outcome. One of them is Dr. Saikal Junushova, who stayed a few months as a guest researcher at the University of Wupperta and with whom we had the opportunity to establish a cooperation, financed for the next four years by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service). And there is a lot to research indeed: First, there are insights into a childhood – taking place in family structures quite different, in a society less individualised, under partly precarious economical conditions, and in minimally developed or crumbling post-soviet infrastructures.

During a fact finding commission at site, the petitioners were able to explore the situation and validate the long-ranging need of fundamental research and data on the topic “conditions of growing up in Kyrgyzstan” in a series of conversations with representatives of local NGOs, universities and ministries. This topic will be the focus of the developmental cooperation between Wuppertal University and three of the universities in Bishkek (Kyrgyz National Jusup Balasagyn University, Kyrgyz Economical University, Kyrgyz State University I. Arabaev) starting in 2009.

The goal of the developmental cooperation between Wuppertal University and Bishkek is a long-term intertwining of offered sociological courses to the profit of both. The cooperation is anchored in a study project of the curriculum of a master course “Childhood, Youth and Social Services” in Wuppertal. The students of Wuppertal University therefore have the opportunity to achieve research experience in a foreign country, train their intercultural competences and prepare themselves for labour positions in the field of international cooperation. The students of Bishkek are offered a chance to update their knowledge of contemporary social research and to use it for the empirical access to an urgent social problem of their country, but as well to use it for research work in Germany.

The curricular form is innovative and internationally oriented. The Core is a research module, which focuses on empirically founded social analysis of processes and structures of growing up, therefore gaining relevance for developmental policies. In this research module, students are teamed in bi-national pairs. The tandem partner of the other country is a partner in discussing theoretical issues and methodological decisions, and in supporting concrete implementation. Whether the students work on a common or a single project (in a general thematic context), is up to them. Indispensable remains the constant exchange and a continual comparative reflection. The tandem partnership will help to shape this part more lucid and more binding. This will be credited along with additional courses and individual research efforts.

In individual cases of adequate interest in the problem and social research, students of other subject areas or PhD students may be considered. The courses of the research module will be held in English. Knowledge of the Russian language is an advantage, but may be acquired at the Wuppertal University, too.