JALAL-ABAD, Kyrgyzstan -- Several madrassas for girls in Kyrgyzstan have begun teaching their students a trade, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)'s Kyrgyz service reported Wednesday (September 13), citing the Imam Azam madrassa in Jalal-Abad.
Hundreds of girls attending madrassas are expected to receive certification as cooks this year in an effort that local authorities hope will combat both unemployment and extremism.
At Imam Azam madrasssa, girls learn to prepare "European, Chinese and some Kazakh dishes," said one student there, Maftuna Bukhaniddin kyzy.
She is one of about 40 girls at Imam Azam receiving culinary training, an experiment in a school that previously taught only the basics of Islam.
The training began "August 1 and requires 138 hours of instruction", said Jamilya Abdrakhman kyzy, a teacher at Imam Azam.
All-boy madrassas also have begun offering training in various trades, which Kyrgyz authorities encourage.
"If [madrassa students] receive only religious education, then all sorts of consequences result," said Nurbek Kaisarbayev, a spokesman for the Jalal-Abad Province office of the State Commission for Religious Affairs (GKDR). "They can be drawn to improper movements or go abroad to fight in wars. That's why we want them to learn a trade. We're devoting special attention to girls because once they graduate [from madrassas], they end up sitting at home. Now they'll be able to work in cafeterias."
The project's goal is to provide surplus hydro-electric power from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan during the summer months.
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