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Investing in Children’s Education Despite Civil War and Famine

Tajikistan is one of the countries of the former Soviet Union that suffered civil war and out-migration during its aftermath. The results of a study conducted by Louise Grogan, a Senior Research Fellow at UCA’s Institute of Public Policy and Administration, suggests that despite civil war and its consequences, households in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) continued to invest in their children’s education.

Grogan examines the relative impact of the dissolution of the Soviet Union on education in GBAO and Khatlon, the other southern border regions of the country. Data from several household studies and surveys, including the Living Standards Monitoring Study (1999), Demographic and Health Surveys (2012 and 2017), and Tajikistan Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (2005 to 2006), has been used in the study.

The author mentions that parents in GBAO have significantly higher educational expectations from their children than elsewhere in Tajikistan. Survey results show that adults in GBAO spend considerably more resources on pre-school children compared to other regions. Every third child in GBAO had been read to by an adult in the previous week, in comparison to only about one sixth in Khatlon. About two-thirds of the children in GBAO had been told stories by an adult compared to almost every second child in Khatlon region.

AAP (4)

An English class at SPCE Khorog.

When compared to other regions in Tajikistan, educational attainment was greater in GBAO for young people who attended school during the Soviet times, and this remained true amongst the later generation of children who studied during the war and famine. At the same time, in Khatlon, the educational attainment decreased due to heavy fighting and prolonged blockades of major towns. Amongst those born in 1992 or later, women in GBAO completed nearly two more years of schooling than did those in Khatlon. Nevertheless, the researcher mentions that the quality of this education may have changed substantially during these years.

The results are particularly striking given that GBAO is much less wealthy than other regions of Tajikistan. This persistence of human capital might be explained by the fact that women in GBAO marry later and have fewer total births.