12/07/2022, 11.31
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Ashgabat: government cuts teachers' salaries to help street children

by Vladimir Rozanskij

57 dollars a month withheld from their salaries. Inspections and dismissals for those who refuse. Each school will have to take charge of between 5 and 10 children. Entrepreneurs who collect funds for children in difficulty accused by the state of 'charitable excesses'. The authorities refuse to acknowledge the social problems linked to the economic crisis.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The government of Turkmenistan has decided to withhold part of the salary of teachers in all schools to help maintain street children, who spend their days begging. The initiative came from the municipal council of Turkmenbaši, one of the cities where the phenomenon takes on the most glaring dimensions.

An official of the local education department told Radio Azatlyk that 'at the Council meeting, we thought that if parents are not able to take care of their children, then this task falls to the school directors and teachers, who should educate them in their classrooms'.

That is why the councillors resolved that 200 manat (57 US dollars) will be deducted from the salary each month. 200 manat (57 US dollars) will be deducted from the salary of children on police lists for begging, who will be provided with food and clothes.

The administration threatens teachers who oppose this 'social' pay cut with inspections and dismissals. According to the resolution, each school will have to take charge of between 5 and 10 children.

The teachers do not like the decision, although they do not have the courage to protest loudly; their salaries, after all, are already reduced to cover a number of other expenses that have nothing to do with their educational work, such as the purchase of seedlings for new crops, the weeding of cotton fields and the harvesting of cotton, the costs of silk embroidery, public ceremonies and the renovation of school buildings.

The number of children who are left wandering in the streets has been increasing recently, especially in the most populated cities and near markets, such as the 'Kenar' in Turkmenbaši. Often these minors guard the rubbish bins, then go rummaging through them as soon as someone throws something away.

Many are caught in the act while trying to steal from shops or market stalls. In the regional boarding schools there is often a shortage of places to accommodate them, and in the orphanages the children are also starving. The local authorities no longer know what to do, hence the shift of responsibility onto the teaching staff.

In the town of Bayramali, in the velayat (region) of Mari, a group of children dressed in rags were caught waiting for a shop to close, they grabbed packets of biscuits from the shelf near the exit, immediately fleeing.

A man passing by managed to catch one of them, and the shop owner rushed over and demanded that he report him to the police immediately, otherwise the others would keep coming.

The child said he was in the third grade, but instead of going to school, he had to look for something to feed his two younger brothers; the man, a local entrepreneur, paid the 7 manat of biscuits, and let him go.

Some business people try to raise money for the children, but the state often blocks them, accusing them of 'charitable excesses' with money hidden from the tax authorities.

Often the fathers of these children work as seasonal workers abroad, and now struggle to send money to support their families. The mothers meanwhile go around looking for extra income, and have no time to care for their children, returning home at night often with almost empty pockets.

The police try to disperse the ever-growing groups of panhandlers, and try to force the children to stay in school, insisting to teachers on their duties.

The government refuses to acknowledge the social problems related to the economic crisis, does not comment on the data on the growth of unemployment and the collapse of living standards to ever lower levels, and does not provide supplementary aid to the poorest strata of the population.

On the contrary, it repeats the proclamations about the 'abundance of food production' ensured in the country, even with symbolic shipments of humanitarian aid to other countries, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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