China / Newsmaker

Warm hearts find my glove in a cold place

By ZHOU WA (China Daily) Updated: 2013-01-15 01:46

The president said Kazakhstan has progressively implemented a policy of affordable and high-quality education.

Since 1997, the country has built 942 schools. Kazakhstan has introduced mandatory preschool training, covering 94.7 percent of preschoolers, according to the president.

My observations were supported when I heard the story of Malika Rustem, who has benefited from the national scholarship project.

She is working for the Kazakh Foreign Ministry and accompanied us during our stay in the country.

The 25-year-old studied on a national scholarship in China and the United States, through which she learned fluent English and broadened her horizons.

If you are talented and pass all the selection exams, you can receive the scholarship, she told me.

According to the president, the number of college scholarships has increased by 182 percent in Kazakhstan over the past 12 years. In 1993, the country adopted a unique "Bolashak" program, which enabled 8,000 gifted young people to study in the world's top universities.

After they finish their studies abroad, they are supposed to return to work in Kazakhstan, Malika told me.

This explains why many officials I visited in Kazakhstan, not only in the Foreign Ministry, but also in other ministries, including the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies, are young and speak English very well.

The only thing I worry about is whether everyone in Kazakhstan has the same access to those opportunities, because I was told by an anonymous source that competition during the selection process for the scholarship can be very fierce and it is easier to get the scholarship if you have someone to recommend you.

"That is not to say you cannot get the scholarship if you don't have such relationships. If you are good enough, you will be selected. There are some scholarship holders who come from rural areas but are impressively outstanding," the source told me.

Kazakhstan is a multi-ethnic country with more than 100 ethnic groups. Walking down the street, you can get confused about whether you are in an Asian or European country because Asians and Westerners are everywhere. The country prefers to be called a Eurasian country.

Different people diversify the country's culture. Since it is an Islamic country, you can see mosques lining the city streets, but you can also see Orthodox churches. You can eat Islamic or Russian food, but Western food is also very popular — there is always a long line at KFC.

I was surprised when I saw snake dolls being sold in the markets. A saleswoman said they are popular because 2013 is the Year of the Snake — Kazakhs have the same animal zodiac system as China.

With such diversity in people and culture, the country understands the importance of equality and peaceful co-existence among different ethnic groups.

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