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Higher education matters to young people in Tajikistan

Jason Weaver's picture
Winners of the youth essay competition


Amidst the risk assessments, results frameworks, and implementation arrangements of any World Bank-financed project, it’s easy to lose sight of the impact that education projects can have on individuals, especially students and teachers. To launch our higher education project in Tajikistan, we used a youth contest to tie the project to personal success stories.  

We asked young people in Tajikistan between the ages of 18-25 to tell us in an email of 100 words: why is higher education important to you? How is it impacting your life? Entries could be submitted in Tajik, Russian, or English.

Since the contest was the first of its kind in Tajikistan, we didn’t know what to expect. To spread the word, we engaged the leader of a youth-oriented NGO in Tajikistan to email, telephone, and visit higher education institutions. Different universities posted contest details to their websites and social media pages.

You can imagine our surprise, when the week-long contest closed with over 110 entries. Along with our counterparts from the Ministry of Education and Science, we then selected nine winners based  on originality, overall impact, and artistic merit. The winning entries were recognized at a ceremony during the launch event in Dushanbe and certificates of recognition and prizes from the World Bank were presented. 

You can imagine our surprise when the week-long contest closed with over 110 entries. Along with our counterparts from the Ministry of Education and Science, we selected nine winners based on originality, overall impact, and artistic merit. The winning entries were recognized at a ceremony during the project’s launch event in Dushanbe and certificates of recognition and prizes from the World Bank were presented.

Here’s what they had to say:

“I graduated from Khorog State University, Accounting and Audit Major. Due to higher education, my thinking about my future has changed. During two years following graduation, I won two grants from international organizations which enabled me to open a private business, a bakery. Right now I employ seven people, contributing to improving people’s lives and the economy of my country. I am 25 years old, but I have already visited other countries and managed to open my business, which is successfully operating and developing.” - Jonmamadova Khurshedmo, 25 years old, graduated from Khorog State University

“Education is the most powerful thing that everybody must possess, especially higher education. Tajikistan is in the stage of improving its system. For all sectors we need professionals. We have a lot of students who graduate high schools, but not all of them will enter university to get higher education. I want to talk about women’s education. This is the saddest thing in Tajikistan, especially for women in rural areas. Education has a special place in my life. I am a student now, and I want to get a Masters degree abroad. If I was not educated myself, how could I be a leader in my community? I dedicate most of my time to working with girls who want to study but do not have such opportunity. I studied in America and now I teach girls how to be leaders. I am a leader for them.” - Murtazokulova Zaynura, 21 years old, Tajik National University, Dushanbe

When entering university, I thought that finding a good paying job after graduation was the only goal. Currently I am finishing the second year of my studies majoring in Information Technologies in Economics. The received knowledge is opening new opportunities in front of me: I am a volunteer of the National Association of Business Women of Tajikistan and holding trainings on IT to school children. I also do tutoring. The profession I have chosen plays an important role in the development of the economy. My country is in dire need of high level professionals. I want to successfully graduate and contribute not only to my family budget, but also to my country’s development. I want to see the world and get the best practical experience in IT internationally. I am sure it is not possible to implement all these without education! - Masaidov Farrukhjon, 18 years old, Khujand (Technical University of Khudjand)
 
On the World Bank’s social media, geo-targeted posts promoting the contest were seen by over 50,000 people in Tajikistan and “liked” by more than 500. Comments on one post actually included a short user dialogue over the impact of corruption on development projects.

“The youth is the largest and fastest growing population group in Tajikistan so it is the country’s main development asset. We place a special focus on engaging with youth as part of our overall efforts to engage citizens in our projects in Tajikistan. I really like that the team used social media for this contest, because this way more young people were reached in a short period of time, as demonstrated by the incredible response,” said Patricia Veevers Carter, the World Bank Country Manager for Tajikistan.


Other World Bank colleagues have conducted similar initiatives globally. In South Asia, for example, the limited use of smartphones and access to the internet led them to employ a 140-character text/twitter contest to engage youth on the topic of gender-based violence.  Similarly, there was a #Blog4Dev contest that called for blog entries of 700 words or less reflecting on a pressing development issue discussed during the World Bank’s 2015 Spring Meetings.

Building on the surprising success of the contest, our team is now thinking how social media can help us during implementation to engage more with project stakeholders, particularly young people, in a meaningful way. We welcome your ideas or success stories. Please share in the comment section below.­


Watch this video about the Higher Education Project in Tajikistan.
Check out our website and blog listing on higher education.
Find out more about the World Bank Group’s work on education on Twitter and Flipboard.