Forced Labor Monitoring: Coronavirus Precautions Ignored for Cotton Pickers
Secondary school teachers in the city of Turkmenabat are all being sent to pick cotton on Turkmenistan’s Remembrance Day public holidays, October 6 and 7. The requirement comes from the deputy head of the regional education department, Kerim Masharipov, and teachers were told about it on Saturday October 5 at staff meetings in all the city’s schools. Turkmen.news has a recording from one of the staff meetings. A 100% turnout of school employees is required at the cotton fields on the days in question.
“Whoever cannot go themselves should hire someone to go in their place,” one deputy principal said at the school staff meeting, quoting verbatim the deputy head of the education department. “Kerim Jumabaevich [Masharipov] repeated: this is the requirement made of us; you have to understand that we officials submit reports every day on how many teachers have been sent, how many tonnes of cotton have been harvested.”
The deputy head called on the teachers “to help” with the cotton harvest, not to stand on the sidelines, but “to get through this together.”
“You’re helping as it is, for which I thank you on behalf of the administration,” the deputy principal said. “The remaining teachers should also come together; we must get through this together. Only if we rally round can we do this. So don’t slip away quietly from the meeting; let’s not say, ‘That donkey’s not carrying my luggage; if it all goes belly up, what’s it got to do with me?’ The cotton harvest doesn’t just concern one or two people.”
The deputy principal said that the school principal goes to the education department every day; “He lines up there with the other school principals and heads of kindergartens, he is reprimanded because we are not coping with the cotton harvest.”
“Every day the principal writes to explain why we’ve not sent enough people to the cotton harvest, and why we’ve not made sure we achieve our harvest targets,” the deputy principal told the meeting.
Every fall in Turkmenistan tens of thousands of public sector employees are forced to pick cotton. It’s possible for an employee to send a hired picker in his or her place, but the employee has to pay the picker between 10 and 25 manats a day ($0.55-1.10), depending on the requirements of the state institution’s management. In schools in Mary, for example, teachers give 240 manats (slightly over $13) to hire a picker for 15 days (at 16 manats a day). Public sector employees may lose their jobs if they refuse to pick cotton or to hire someone else to do it. Nevertheless, more and more employees are swearing off the cotton harvest, saying it has nothing to do with them.
The teachers were told they would go cotton picking every day during the fall holidays (October 20-29), turkmen.news sources say.
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