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Struggling to learn in cramped, dangerous classrooms

Students in an overcrowded classroom in Uyali village hit by mudflows earlier this year
An overcrowded classroom at a school in Uyali village hit by mudflows earlier this year (Alimbek Tashtankulov/IRIN)

Six months after floods hit parts of southern-central Tajikistan, damaging or destroying dozens of schools and other buildings, hundreds of students are still attending school in overcrowded and sometimes unsafe buildings, according to local teachers and officials.

One of the affected schools is in Rudaki District: “We have two classrooms in a damaged building. It is not safe; it is dangerous, but we don’t have any other option,” Huseyn Toshev, headmaster of School No. 12 in Rudaki, told IRIN.

In some of the classrooms two pupils share a chair, or three are squeezed onto two chairs - unheard of in normal circumstances. “We now operate three shifts. We have 828 pupils being taught in two buildings, while the planned capacity is for only 300,” Toshev said.

The shift system meant teachers and pupils had no time for lunch breaks, he added.

“The old part of the school [where there are two classrooms for younger pupils] was built in 1927. It is not fit for purpose and unsafe. It should be demolished and a new one built,” he said. “We pray there is no quake and hope nothing happens.”

Shamigul Murodova, a teacher at School No. 38 in Sangtuda village, Rudaki District, said the school was built in the 1930s and parts of the walls collapsed during the floods. “We used to have 11 classes, with two shifts of pupils. After the floods we have three classes with 595 pupils studying in three shifts,” she said.

Slideshow of Tajikistan schools

Schools damaged by heavy rain and floods in Tajikistan in April/May

Mavjuda Boboeva, deputy head of the Rudaki District administration, told IRIN the floods affected 10 schools in the district, four of which were badly damaged.

“Those four schools are in a dangerous condition. If there is a four degree earthquake they will collapse,” Boboyeva said.

“In one school, the beams are rotten and if there is snow, the roof will collapse. There are other schools in very poor condition, but no funds for rebuilding. We ask donors and international organizations to help,” she said.

According to the local met office, over 50 floods and mudflows affected more than 12,000 people in April-May 2009, with the districts of Khuroson, Pyanj and Qumsangir in Khatlon Province and Nurobod, Rudaki and Rasht districts (administered directly by central government), the worst affected.

More than 2,000 buildings, including 13 hospitals and 70 schools were partially or totally damaged, according to the 12 August Early Recovery Appeal - Tajikistan Floods and Mudflows by the Rapid Emergency Assessment and Coordination Team (a local team comprising government bodies, UN agencies and NGOs).

Stalled aid

Italian NGO CESVI has drafted a US$950,000 project (as part of the Early Recovery Appeal) to rebuild three education facilities destroyed by floods in Zaynabobod, Guliston and Lohur local councils in Rudaki District, but there has been no response from donors so far.

Asked about why donors have not been generous, UN Resident Coordination Michael Jones said donors were more eager to fund humanitarian emergency projects.

“Each donor has its own policies, its own criteria that it has to apply. Some projects fit the criteria some don’t. The whole aid world over the years has become compartmentalized [such] that you have your emergency assistance, your humanitarian assistance, then you have your recovery envelope where funding facilities are very limited,” Jones said.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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