Meeting Targets

by Nathan Hamm on 11/16/2004

(IWPR) The youngest of students are being used to meet cotton production targets in Namangan.

Some schools have been closed since October, with students forced to spend their days picking the crop.

“We meet at school at 8 am, and then we go to the fields and gather cotton until 3 pm. We bring food from home,” said Rukiya Mamajanova, a fifth grade pupil from Namangan, who said she has been paid about 200 soms (20 US cents) for two months’ work.

At this late stage, many children are gathering whatever they can find, picking cotton that has failed to ripen or picking up wisps from the ground, often mixed with rubbish, and bringing it in to school where a teacher weighs it.

Muazzam Israilova, a second-grade pupil, talked to IWPR while walking to school, carrying one kilogram of cotton. “My brother gave me this cotton. He’s 12. If I don’t bring the cotton to school, my teacher will be angry,” said the eight-year-old girl.

Namangan residents say local politicians are desperate to meet state quotas at any cost, because failing to satisfy Tashkent-imposed targets could cost them their jobs.

“This cotton is absolutely useless,” said one teacher. “It cannot be processed and used. They just want to fulfil the plan with this rubbish. I feel sorry for the children.”

Officially, of course, these children are not being forced to go out into the fields.

Headmaster Muminjon Salimov rejected claims that younger children from the second to fifth grades were being forced to work in the fields.

“Perhaps the children have gone into the fields voluntarily and are helping their parents, because the holidays have just begun,” said Salimov, when he was told that IWPR had actually spoken to the pupils.

Yep, I’m sure that’s what’s going on.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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