Children in Tajikistan return to safer schools amid COVID-19

As the new school-year began, UNICEF worked with the Government of Tajikistan and the EU to create a safe and enabling learning environment for every child

Sarah Ammon
Tajikistan
UNICEF Tajikistan/2020 / R. Buryak
30 September 2020

In Tajikistan, educational institutions including primary schools, high schools, and kindergartens closed their doors in April following confirmation of the country’s first COVID-19 cases. Public gatherings ceased, borders closed, flights stopped, and a waiting game began.

Over two million school children in Tajikistan were out of school for around one and a half months. Throughout this time, UNICEF Tajikistan, the EU, and the Government of Tajikistan worked behind-the-scenes to produce home learning resources and ensure a safe and enabling learning environment for when children returned to school.

Having now been back at school for roughly four weeks, around two million students would have noticed new posters developed by UNICEF and the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) containing public health advice, including information on social distancing and handwashing. These materials were distributed to a total of 662 kindergartens, 1,771 ECD centres, and 3,884 schools covering all 68 districts and population centres around the country.

As figures of authority, teachers are precious resources when it comes to effectively spreading positive messages among children and the wider community. UNICEF and the MoES have invested in teachers in every district of Tajikistan and made them a central part of the coronavirus response. With partners, UNICEF has conducted training sessions with teachers on issues relating to safety, wellbeing, learning, and psychosocial support; and produced and distributed an induction package for educators including a booklet for teachers and a video on how to ensure safe and quality learning amid the pandemic.

"The teacher's guide brochure and videos are great. I wish such educational and informative materials were always delivered to our school." 

Davlatov Ahmed and Zevarova Gulafruz, teachers at school №8, Rushan District, Derzud

The future can be daunting for all of us even at the best of times. For children returning to school amid COVID-19, this uncertainty is heightened; to help address some of this pandemic-fuelled confusion, UNICEF and partners have created a fun online video showing Tajik children what to expect when returning to school post-lockdown, how to line up ‘social-distancing style’, proper sneezing etiquette, alternatives to hand shaking, and other ways to avoid contracting the virus. This video can be viewed here. An additional 32,560 students also attended seminars and talks on COVID-19 safety precautions.

To facilitate the continuation of learning outside the formal school setting amid the pandemic, UNICEF and the MoES worked together to develop a series of TV lessons for core subjects These resources were also made available online on a ‘blended learning’ platform through LearnIn, Learning Passport, and Maktab Mobile. 

Through empowering teachers and students, pushing for behaviour change, and creating supplementary resources that will remain accessible even onwards into the post-pandemic world, the time of the coronavirus can be taken advantage of and used as an impetus for change to improve schools and the overall educational experience in the long term.