Kazakhstan: Sau Bol Peace Corps

23 Nov

The Peace Corps’ 18-year presence in Kazakhstan was unceremoniously concluded last weekend with the sudden pull out of its remaining 171 volunteers from various projects around the country. Astana cited the reason for the abrupt departure of the volunteers as being “a rather logical step” in light of Kazakhstan’s “great progress in the political and socio-economic development over the 20 years of its independence.” A statement from the Peace Corps echoed this sentiment. 

Does this finally mean that Astana will no longer bang on about Kazakhstan being a ‘very young country’? Let’s hope so as it’s now coming up to its 20th anniversary of independence so it’s about time it took a more mature and responsible attitude.

Other reasons for the abrupt departure were mooted in this piece on Eurasianet including concerns about rape, sexual assault, possible terrorist attacks and alleged espionage.

There was also a lively debate on Registan invoving PC volunteers past and present.

Whatever the real reasons for the pull out, perhaps the Peace Corps had been moving away from its core mission in Kazakhstan – earlier this year Kazaxia was surprised to find Peace Corps volunteers working in the Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools, the country’s flagship secondary education project.

This school project, named, of course, after President Nursultan Nazarbayev, is well financed and even has a budget to employ English native speaker teachers in various subject areas. So why was it using the services of Peace Corps volunteers? Surely, their talents could have been better utilised in schools that weren’t all ready getting so much generous support?

Maybe the rapid development of Kazakhstan was such that there was really no longer a need for the Peace Corps in the general school system, although the new Nazarbayev Intellectual School network still needed the volunteers?

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