Uzbekistan cotton harvest disrupts schools

As in years past, Uzbekistan’s annual cotton harvest is wreaking havoc on the educational system, reports.

Human rights monitors in districts around the capital, Tashkent, say that while children are not being pulled out of school to pick cotton – a common practice in Uzbekistan – teachers are.

The results range from the chaotic to the surreal, with teachers being shifted to subjects they do not know, teaching multiple classes at once, or assigning busy work and leaving the classroom. In some university classes, the professors do not show up at all but students must sit in the auditorium for the duration anyway. “This creates the impression that the educational process is not disrupted and all is proceeding as normal,” according to the website.

Cotton is crucial to Uzbekistan’s economy: it accounted for 11 percent of the country’s exports in 2010, the latest figures available from the International Cotton Advisory Council (pdf). Each year the government sets production quotas and prices, and farmers make subsistence wages no matter how much the government gets for selling their cotton on the international market.

At harvest time, students and professionals are pulled into the fields. This year, medical workers and medical students were the first to be forced to pick cotton, Radio Free Europe reported earlier this month.

The government has been repeatedly pilloried for using child labor to pick cotton and Uzbekistan’s crop is the target of international boycotts.

Some teachers pay others to pick cotton for them, and some schools are holding classes in shifts to save teachers from having to deal with multiple classes simultaneously, reports.

This article was originally published on Transitions Online.


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