Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Corruption Devalues Education in Daghestan, Alienating the Young and Isolating the Republic from Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 16 – Massive corruption in the schools and universities of Daghestan involving purchasing of grades and diplomas has “devalued education,” contributes to the alienation of young people whose paper credentials exceed their actual knowledge and skills and further isolate them and their north Caucasus homeland from the rest of Russia.

            Bribery in schools and universities is widespread throughout the post-Soviet world, but Musa Musayev, a journalist for “Kavkazskaya politika,” argues in an article published today that the situation is especially serious in Daghestan where its undermining of education has “created a mass of problems” (

            Daghestani parents want their children to be educated at prestige schools and in prestige subjects, Musayev says, but then they spend “millions” to bribe teachers and administrators thus guaranteeing that their children will get diplomas without having acquired real knowledge or without ensuring a good fit between their degrees and the job market.

            That process, he continues, has led to “the growth in the number of pseudo-educated people,” and their presence in the community has “created a mass of problems,” including but not limited to a growth in “religious and national intolerance” and a decline in the willingness of the young to accept “an all-Russian identity.”

            Some of them, the journalist says, become criminals, others join the militants in the mountains, and the members of a third group “not infrequently move beyond the borders of Daghestan where because of their unworthy conduct they create inter-ethnic conflicts” and undermine the reputation of their home republic.

            But perhaps the largest group consists of those who remain unemployed or are forced to take jobs below the income and status level they expected their schooling to entitle them. These people are furious about what has happened to them, and they form the basis for a social explosion or even revolution.

            According to Musayev, another serious problem in education there is the shortage of places in the school system in Daghestan, a republic whose rapidly growing population presents very different challenges than those in other Russian regions. In Daghestan now, “the pyramid of Soviet education has been turned on its head,” with “the number of higher schools greater than the number of technical schools.”

            The condition of the educational system’s facilities in Daghestan is appalling, with many schools in substandard buildings that date back to the period before World War II. Makahchkala is building new schools rapidly, at a rate of 15 per year, but that has not kept up with the demand given the high birth rate.

            Many schools have three shifts and the situation with regard to pre-school education is even worse: only 25 percent of those children who want to attend are able to, there is a waiting list of some 60,000 children, and there are not enough teachers given their low pay and low status in the community.

            ”The authority of teachers has declined because of the low quality of preparation of pedagogical cadres,” Musayev says. And the best graduates choose to go elsewhere to teach rather than to remain in their own republic. Wealthy parents could correct the situation, but they choose not to, even though they often contribute mightily to the construction of mosques.

            “In Daghestan, there are now more mosques than schools,” the “Kavkazskaya politika” writer says.  And many of them attract few attendees or have imams who urge support for the public school system.  As a result, children “who do not study or study poorly in the schools then go into ‘the forest’ and extract tribute” from those who should have been building schools.

             Everything in this area is inter-connected, Musayev says, especially in a republic where the average age is 26 to 27 and where “more than half of the population” is of an age to be in the educational system.  Tragically, most schools in Daghestan are producing either people whose skills are not needed or people who because of bribes have no skills at all.

            And they cannot escape this situation even if they leave the republic, he writes.  In many Russian cities, employers are putting out signs that declare “’We do not hire specialists with Daghestani diplomas.’” That only further alienates the population of that North Caucasus republic and makes solving its many other problems even more difficult.

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