Tajiks flock to Russian-language schools

EurasiaNet.org reports on the rising popularity of Russian-language schools in Tajikistan, where parents are willing to pay thousands of dollars in bribes to enroll their children in the few schools that teach in the language.

Russian is used less and less in the former Soviet republic, but a working knowledge of the language is essential for the large numbers of Tajiks – as many as 1 million out of a population of 8.2 million – who work in Russia, and whose remittances are a lifeline for one of Asia’s poorest countries. Every year migrant workers send home the equivalent of half the country’s GDP in cash.

Typically, Tajikistani parents are asked to contribute around $10 a month in “voluntary” payments to schools, much of which is suspected to end up in principals’ pockets, EurasiaNet.org reports. Many are willing to pay much more to enter their kids in Russian schools.

“Several parents confirmed to EurasiaNet.org that the unofficial ‘enrollment’ fees at Russian-language schools, because they are considered superior, run as high as $2,000 – a fortune in a country where the average monthly wage is about $200,” the website writes.

Zebo Tajibaeva, a Tajikistani journalist, told EurasiaNet.org that some parents at her daughter’s Tajik-language school paid between $120 and $200 to enter their children in beginning Russian language classes when school began last month.

In Tajikistan and neighboring Kyrgystan alike, Russian schools are seen as offering a better education, both because of the wide use of Russian in the region and the lack of quality academic materials in local languages.

“Migrants must have a working knowledge of Russian to be able to protect their rights and access better jobs,” said Munira Inoyatova, a former education minister who now heads a nonprofit children’s agency.

“There is a lack of textbooks in [Tajik]; terminology is not developed,” Inoyatova said. “In many Western countries, English is a second compulsory language. The Russian language should become the main second language within the [former USSR].”

This article was originally published on Transitions Online.


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