Forced Labor Monitoring: Coronavirus Precautions Ignored for Cotton Pickers
On Sunday September 1 schoolteachers from Turkmenabat in northeast Turkmenistan were sent to pick cotton. They assembled outside their schools at 6.30 in the morning, having received the instructions from the deputy principals on Friday evening (turkmen.news has screenshots of the messages).
The instructions to show up at the pick-up points came right after the regional administration held a meeting on August 31 with the leaders of budget-funded and self-financing institutions. The meeting was dedicated to the start of the harvest campaign, although it doesn’t begin officially until September 11.
The Knowledge Day, usually celebrated on September 1 when children begin the new school year, was held over two days. On Sunday September 1 a celebration took place for the first graders, which the teachers of the elementary classes and all the pupils from the second to the 11th grade had to attend. They were told to wear white sports kit and play drafts, chess, and tug of war in the schoolyard until 11 in the morning. The following day, September 2, there was another celebration, this time for the whole school.
It is the teachers of the senior grades and service staff who went to the cotton fields on September 1.
“There are 11 service staff in our school — this time two cleaners and one handyman were left to get the school ready for September 1, while the others came cotton picking with us,” a teacher at a Turkmenabat school said. “In previous years just one cleaner was left behind and she would be charged with getting the whole school ready for the start of the academic year.”
The source said that the cleaners had kicked off the cotton season on August 30 this year, but there had been hardly any cotton as the crop had yet to ripen. For example, fewer than 1 per cent of the cotton bolls in Farap district had opened.
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