By Erkin Kamalov
JALAL-ABAD PROVINCE, Kyrgyzstan -- Professional and technical skills, in addition to a spiritual education, can help prevent youth from becoming radicalised, clergy and educators say.
Graduates of madrassas who cannot find work often leave Kyrgyzstan in search of better opportunities, said Nurbek Kaisarbayev, a spokesman for the Jalal-Abad Province office of the State Commission for Religious Affairs (GKDR).
Motivated by desperation and false promises, some of them join militant groups, destroying their lives and bringing grief to their families, he told Caravanserai.
Teaching students various professional skills is one solution to avoid such tragedies and fight radicalisation among youth, he said.
"All-girls madrassas teach courses on garment design and sewing, the culinary arts and hairdressing, while all-boys madrassas give boys the opportunity to learn the professions of car mechanic ... driver or electrician," he said.
Officials should be interested in children obtaining not only a quality religious education but also ensuring that they can find work after graduating, said Jarkynai Amatova, a theologian from Bishkek.
"Youth need professional and technical skills in addition to a spiritual education, which helps divert them from radicalism," she told Caravanserai. "This is an important factor in uprooting extremist ideas in society."
Obtaining professional skills will help graduates find jobs, said Kyyal Mambetova, administrator of an all-girls madrassa in Jalal-Abad.
"For example, our school hosted cooking classes for students August 1-25 this year, after which the best of them received certificates that'll enable them to get jobs at cafes, restaurants or confectioneries," she told Caravanserai.
Other graduates can work as tailors or farmers or provide foreign-language tutoring to younger students at the madrassa, she said.
Religious education at the all-girls Imam Azam madrassa in Jalal-Abad comes with the chance to learn Arabic, Turkish, English, Russian and other languages, said Amina Kadyraliyeva, a student at the madrassa.
"We have the opportunity to acquire a profession here, which plays a huge role in our future lives," she told Caravanserai.
Every girl should have a vocational education so that she will not have to depend on anyone in the future, she said.
Gulnisa Masadykova of Jalal-Abad said she was very glad that her 14-year-old daughter gained admission to Imam Azam.
"Our family is religious. When our child she wanted to continue her studies at the local madrassa after finishing ninth grade, we were overjoyed," she told Caravanserai. "They teach more than just morality and Islamic canons there -- they also teach them to sew and prepare food, among other things."
Kyrgyz youth have been turning away from extremist ideas because the state has come to understand that the younger generation needs help in determining its future, said Masadykova.