EBRD and We-Fi spur innovation at woman-led private school in Uzbekistan

By Narmina Gadjieva

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Istiqbol Zamon Bolalari, which translates as ‘Children of the Future’, is one of the leading preschool and secondary education providers in the city of Namangan in eastern Uzbekistan.

New digital platform enabled continuity of education during the pandemic

Istiqbol Zamon Bolalari, which translates as ‘Children of the Future’, is one of the leading preschool and secondary education providers in the city of Namangan in eastern Uzbekistan. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Matlyuba Madaminova, its founder and director, introduced online learning, enabling the school to remain functional during the lockdown.

The Covid-19 crisis has caused serious disruption to the education sector around the world and Uzbekistan is no exception. At the same time, it has stimulated innovation in many areas of life and, for Mrs Madaminova, it also opened up new windows of opportunity.

Ensuring continuity of learning during the school closure became a priority. With support from the EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses funded by the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), the school’s management was able to develop an interactive online platform for schoolchildren to access online resources, and improve internal processes.

Matlyuba Madaminova, a teacher of English, became the director of a new lyceum-type school in her hometown in the Namangan region. In that role, she worked for almost 20 years bringing the institution into the top 10 schools in the country.

In 2015, Mrs Madaminova resolved to open the first private school in Namangan, followed by the first private kindergarten. In order to be able to finance the refurbishment work for the building, she had to sell her own jewellery.

“I was not a businesswoman. I realised that one does not necessarily need a large amount of money to start a business. Your knowledge and strong intentions are very important in reaching your goals,” she reflects.

Today, Mrs Madaminova employs 106 people across the three branches of the nursery primary and secondary schools. She is a strong advocate of the professional development of teachers and encourages them to implement modern teaching methods so they can provide first class education to the students.

Due to the pandemic, Istiqbol Zamon Bolalari school was in urgent need of bringing its services online. Mrs Madaminova was excited to learn about the EBRD’s business advisory programme and the opportunities it provides to small and medium-sized enterprises.

Through the project with the EBRD, the school developed a highly innovative tool that facilitates the exchange of information between students and teachers, provides access to the e-library, enables parents to exchange information with the school, facilitates billing system and more.

The consultant that was behind this initiative also provided tailored training to the teachers and management, who in turn had an excellent opportunity to upgrade their digital skills. In addition, the school also launched a new website to help increase its awareness within the local community.

“It turned out that in business, one should always be ready for any unexpected difficulties. However, during the pandemic, the school reached a new and advanced level in the acquisition of digital technologies. The development of the web platform was indeed a creative process and it was the most important achievement for me so far in 2020,” says Mrs Madaminova.

As a next step, the school is also engaging in a complex digital programme that creates additional opportunities for enhancing the quality of educational services through IT tools.

Matlyuba Madaminova is full of positive energy, new ideas and hope. Her life motto is, “When one door closes, another door opens. Go forth!”

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