Parliament in Tajikistan has approved an agreement to build five new Russian schools over the next three years, with funds primarily provided by the Russian government.
The step shows the ability of the Tajik authorities to maintain close relations with Moscow and illustrates an increasing demand for Russian-speaking education among Tajiks.
During a parliamentary debate on 15 January in Dushanbe, Deputy Minister of Education Rahmatullo Mirboboev said the schools will be designed to hold at least 1,200 students each.
In the Central Asian region, the Russian-speaking community has dwindled dramatically as the population of ethnic Russians dropped from around 395,000 in 1979 to just 35,000 when the last census was taken in 2010.
Given that, it’s predicted that the new Russian-speaking schools will have no shortage of students.
Tajiks ‘ demand for more educational facilities in which Russian is the language of instruction has risen in recent years, both in towns and rural areas.
Tajikistan already has 32 Russian-only schools, with 10 of them built in the past two years.
Dozens of mixed-language schools, taught separately, provide education in both Tajik and Russian classes.
Tajik parents who enrol their kids in Russian schools say it will increase their chances of studying at Russian universities and having well-paid, white-collar jobs in Russia.
In Tajikistan, one of the poorest of the former Soviet republics, unemployment is high, and wages very low. For October the average monthly salary was $140.
“My eldest son goes to a Russian kindergarten,” says Zahro, a South Sughd provincial paediatrician who didn’t want to give her full name.
She says that her younger son couldn’t get a position in the Russian school and that while waiting for a vacancy, he is “currently studying in Tajik.”
“For them, a longer-term plan is to study medicine in Russia, likely in some smaller cities where the cost of living isn’t high,” Zahro said. “Kids are working hard, we are also getting additional private chemistry and physics lessons.” Like many other Tajiks, Zahro claims that Russian-speaking schools in Tajikistan generally offer better quality education.
Russian schools are a second-best option for middle-income parents like Zahro, who can’t afford to send their kids to private schools.