Students Pay Their Way Through University

As monthly salary payments fall behind, corruption has assumed immense proportions levels among teachers at schools and in higher education in Turkmenistan. Enrolment for higher educational institutions has begun, but future entrants are less than excited

Students Pay Their Way Through University

As monthly salary payments fall behind, corruption has assumed immense proportions levels among teachers at schools and in higher education in Turkmenistan. Enrolment for higher educational institutions has begun, but future entrants are less than excited

Monday, 24 July, 2006
It is easy to understand this since the position of teachers has deteriorated in recent years – school teachers nor university lecturers go unpaid for months on end. Their salaries are cut, and they are then forced to sign for money which they are due but which they never receive. Furthermore, ahead of the new academic year, teachers and university lecturers have to use their own money to repair classrooms and auditoriums.



Levels of corruption among teaching staff at schools, institutes and universities are increasing every year. School headmasters and university rectors, despite a number of salutory dismissals, continue to pay salaries to “dead souls” and to fill posts by illegal methods.



The summer exams are in full swing at universities and institutes. During the last winter-term exams, students had to pay 50 to 150 US dollars to pass some of them, and even future policemen had to a pay bribe to their teachers for each exam at the military institute at the Interior Ministry Academy.



Jennet Saparova, a student at the Azadi international languages institute, believes attempting to pass exams by yourself is simply useless. She is from a poor family, and says that it was a miracle that she got into university – only because there was an old-fashioned, honest teachers on the enrolment board who liked her answers and insisted she be included in the entrance list.



Now, Jennet says, she always has a book in her hands and spends a lot of time preparing for exams. But she still has to “bomb” the teachers, as local young people call bribery. So she is forced to write term papers for students in senior classes so that she can pay for what counts as a modest gift of 45 or 50 dollars for each teacher. Jennet says that she is saved by the fact that there are still some relatively conscientious teachers who do take account of students’ knowledge, and only take bribes from those who perform badly.



According to Irada Alieva, a teacher of English literature at the same institute, it will not be easy to root out this system. Irada herself has two daughters who are students. Besides the constant collections of money to repair auditoriums, she has to buy her daughters study materials and save up for their exams.



Despite her experience, Irada herself says her salary is laughable, so she has to look for additional sources of income. Irada justifies her actions by saying that she does not take bribes from good students, just from those who do not attend classes and cannot pass exams by their own efforts.



Irada admits that she understands her colleagues, but it’s a vicious circle - she takes bribes from her students so that her daughters can bribes their teachers and get through the tests and exams.



The university entrance exams are close at hand. Competition is very intense: the entrance bribe varies but can be as high as 7,000 or 9,000 dollars. For example, the going rate for the law and international relations - the most prestigious faculties of Turkmen State University - is 10,000 dollars, and the Economics Institute is approximately the same. Less prestigious institutes such as teacher training are happy with 4,000 dollars.



Many people save up for years to give their children an education. Aigul Babaeva from Ashgabat says that this year her son will finish schools, so she has already saved enough to pay for a fake record showing two years’ work experience [now required before anyone can go on to higher education]. She does not know how she will get the money for university - she wanted to ask her relatives, but they have children of their own who also need to study. Of her three children, she dreams of providing at least her son with an education, while the two girls can learn sewing or hairdressing.



But her son must have an education: there has to be at least one educated person in the family who can later provide for the rest of the family.

Turkmenistan
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