Restoring joy in school for children in Tajikistan
UNICEF provides safe, inclusive learning environment to children in Tajikistan, including Afghan refugee children by rehabilitating the educational and WASH facilities.
“Back in Afghanistan, my mother and my father studied only until the 4th grade. When we arrived in Tajikistan, my parents ensured, me and siblings were studying.”
Susan Sherali, 14 y.o, is a student in a local school #3 in Vahdat city. Like many Afghan families, Susan’s family moved to Tajikistan years ago in a search of a safer living environment. The family settled down in Vahdat city, where she and her five siblings enrolled in the school to study along with their Tajik peers.
Currently Susan is an 8th grader of the school #3 and she shares that just one academic year ago, the school had a completely different set up and a learning environment, which lacked access to water and heating during the winter period.
“When I grow up, I want to become a doctor. My parents are in full support of this idea. I hope to get enrolled into the University and study medicine.”
Safe and inclusive spaces critical for quality learning
The school #3 in Vahdat is one of the few schools in Tajikistan to host Afghan refugee children: out of two and a half thousands of schoolchildren, over five hundred are from the refugee population. As many schools in Tajikistan, the school #3 used to lack access to water, and handwashing facilities. The school didn’t comply with the basic WASH requirements; the classrooms didn’t comply with standards for the safe learning. The building was old and didn’t undergo any rehabilitation since they day it was built back in 20th century.
“Within a year, 25 per cent of children in Tajikistan drop out of school. This happens due to certain factors, including WASH conditions.” says my colleague Rauf Yuldashev, WASH Engineer at UNICEF in Tajikistan.
When Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in 2021, many Afghan families flee to neighboring countries, including to Tajikistan. This is when the Government of Tajikistan started a rapid needs assessment to identify gaps in existing services and develop measures for accommodating the needs of current and potential incoming refugee population, including a need for safe learning spaces.
Brand new school, brand new beginning
Hurmat Dushanbiev, Education Officer shares that in early 2022 as per the request of the Government of Tajikistan and as part of the emergency preparedness, UNICEF with the funding from the Bureau of Population, Refugee and Migration of the US Department of State started a full rehabilitation of the education and WASH facilities of the school #3 to prepare to welcome schoolchildren for the new academic year.
Today one can witness the school’s building fully rehabilitated, the water access consistent, classrooms renovated and washrooms available both inside and outside the school.
Rukhmina Saidova, 15 y.o, is a ninth grader in the school #3. She has been recently transferred from another local school. The difference of the learning environments between the two schools, according to Rukhmina is drastic. “My new school is brand new. The classes, the building, the washrooms are all brand new. I enjoy this environment very much! I also like my teachers very much.” shares the girl.
In future, Rukhmina is dreaming of becoming a pilot. The girl’s mother is very keen to support her dream.
“My mother says that whatever I do, I should try hard and realize my potential.”
Towards inclusive and peaceful environment for children and young people
As the way forward, in the upcoming months, UNICEF plans to further support education for Afghan and host community schoolchildren in this particular school as well as other eleven schools around the country, where Afghan children study, including through enhancing access to primary and secondary formal and non-formal education.
UNICEF will also focus on building resilience of both Afghan and Tajik young people to live in a more tolerant, inclusive, peaceful and safe environment in the targeted areas, with adequate skills and competencies to develop to their full potential to be able to contribute to the host communities and country as responsible and productive citizens.