Tajikistan: A new school is set to transform learning

Tajikistan: A new school is set to transform learning
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Story highlights

  • The community-built School 30 in Danghara doesn’t have the appropriate facilities and classrooms are too small to accommodate the students comfortably.
  • New schools with upgraded toilets and access to technology are transforming the learning experience for children living in remote regions of the country.
  • Putting these basics in place frees teachers and children to focus on effective learning through competency-based education—the priority reform chosen by Tajikistan.
Tajikistan map

School 30 in the town of Danghara was built in 2004 by the community. It currently welcomes 301 students in two shifts and there are approximately 32 students in each classroom. Compared to some countries where the standard is 100+ students per class, 32 students might not be considered problematic. Nonetheless, the large number of children poses a variety of challenges for both students and teachers.

Because of the lack of space in the classrooms, three or sometimes four students share one desk. This means that students cannot learn comfortably and teachers have a hard time moving around and helping students sitting in the back.

School 30 also lacks learning materials and even the most basic water and sanitation facilities—there are no toilets, no water, no toilet paper and no sinks to wash hands. All of these factors discourage hygienic practices and pose the risk of girls dropping out of school.

A UNICEF study found that 18% of girls who had dropped out of school or were at risk of dropping out stated poor water supply and sanitation facilities as a reason for missing school, proving that if we want girls to stay in school we need to provide adequate WASH facilities.

All of these challenges impede the students’ learning experience. But things will soon change for School 30. In 2023, there will be a newly constructed school building that will reduce the number of students per class from 32 to 24.

  • Three students share one desk at School 30, Dangara, Tajikistan.
    Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch

  • Teacher Zoirzoda Zebunisso with students at School 30, Dangara, Tajikistan. Students and teachers consider their old community built school to be too small.
    Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch

  • The new GPE-supported school under construction (foreground) and the old community-constructed school (with white walls) behind.
    Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch

The need for a better learning environment

Back in 1991, Tajikistan’s population was 5 million and by 2022 it had doubled to 10 million. Because of the high population growth, the government didn’t have any other option but to increase the number of students per class and turn to multiple-shifting.

An overwhelming majority of students attend double-shift schools (88.2%). Only 6.6% attend single-shift schools and a remaining 5.3% attend triple-shift schools. Triple-shifting in particular comes at a high cost: reducing the time children spend learning, posing challenges of access and safety as the third shift ends when it is dark in winter, and limiting teachers’ availability for additional or extra-curricular activities.

In Tajikistan, the majority of schools were built in the 1960s with the support of the community without following the appropriate construction regulations. In fact, 284 schools are considered to be in a dangerous condition.

Most schools in remote areas were built with clay and wood and are vulnerable to seismic shocks including earthquakes and climatic conditions such as extreme summers and winters. As summer approaches, temperatures in the region of Danghara where School 30 is located increasingly hamper the ability of both teachers and children to concentrate properly as they can rise above 35 degrees.

The classrooms are stuffy and hot, and sometimes children feel dizzy and need to leave to get air. In extreme heat, students are sent home in recognition that neither teaching nor learning is possible in those conditions.

  • The village of Danghara, Khatlon Region, Tajikistan (site of School 30).
    Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch

Teacher Zoirzoda Zebunisso from School #30, Danghara, Tajikistan.
“Having so many students in a small room makes the heat worse and makes students feel uncomfortable. When the weather is too hot, some students have problems breathing and feel dizzy.”
Zoirzoda Zebunisso
Chemistry and history teacher, School 30

Building safe, student friendly and climate resilient schools

With support from a GPE Multiplier grant along with co-financing from the Islamic Development Bank and a government contribution, 68 schools in the Khatlon region and the capital city of Dushanbe are being constructed or rehabilitated. Five of these new schools plan to eliminate triple-shifting.

As one of the recipients of this program, the aim for the new School 30 is to improve the learning experience for students, teachers and school administrators alike. The design of the larger classrooms allows for more ventilation, which, combined with better insulation, ensures that it won’t get as hot during the warm months. Moreover, now just two students share a desk, compared to 3 or 4 before.

In addition to spacious new classrooms, the new school has a new teachers’ office, a library, a computer room and the school is to be provided with furniture and learning supplies. New bathrooms, which includes access to water in toilets, are expected to improve the sanitary conditions for students—specially girls.

  • The new GPE-supported school under construction; School 30, Danghara, Khatlon Region, Tajikistan.
    Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch

  • The director of School 30 and construction workers look at the plans for the new school.
    Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch

  • The new GPE-supported school under construction; School 30, Danghara, Khatlon Region, Tajikistan.
    Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch

Safarzoda Dilshod, Head of the Construction Department at the Ministry of Education and Science of Tajikistan. Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
“The new classrooms will be the difference between day and night.”
Jorubov Rahmonali Kurbonalievich
Director, School 30

18,000 students in grades 1–11 attending GPE-supported schools are expected to benefit from newly equipped facilities with water and laboratories for physics, biology and chemistry and adapted infrastructure for children with disabilities.

All of these improvements are enabling Tajikistan to develop the kinds of schools that serve as models for a new generation of educational facilities. This means student friendly school environments and better resilience of buildings to natural disasters and climatic conditions.

Safarzoda Dilshod, Head of the Construction Department at the Ministry of Education and Science of Tajikistan
“The government of Tajikistan gives the top priority to education and the main goal is to provide improved conditions for teachers and students.”
Safarzoda Dilshod
Head of the Construction Department at the Ministry of Education and Science of Tajikistan

Better systems for better learning

Tajikistan selected competency-based education (CBE) as the priority area to transform its education system. By focusing on adequate school buildings, access to technology and WASH facilities, the current GPE program is creating a supportive learning environment, which is key to the successful implementation of CBE. Learning assessments, a modernized education management information system and modern teaching-learning materials also complement these efforts.

All of these reforms aim to modernize Tajikistan’s education system to provide students with the skills they need to succeed in the global marketplace and the 21st century working environment.

Students, teachers and the community have high hopes for a better learning experience once their new school is ready. The response has been overwhelmingly positive—students, teachers and the community as a whole are all excited about this new school. Some students already have ambitions for the new school building:

Student, school 30. Tajikistan. Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
“We expect to have access to new equipment in the new building and a highly qualified teacher so that we can be taught well and will be able to improve our knowledge in the future.”

November 2022