As we were walking through town, some school kids said, "hello." Rowshan responded in Farsi and the teacher, who was with them, asked if he was from Iran. Rowshan talked with the students and teacher for a bit. They were from a private school where they tried to encourage deeper exploration of subjects and included outings around the city as part of the curriculum. The teacher invited us to visit the school.
The school was called The Rustamov Yud School and was a small multistory building. We walked in and saw everyone took off their shoes as if they were in a home. Later the teacher, Firuza, explained the building had been a home and was donated to the school by its founder.
She explained that the school was the only private school in Tajikistan which didn't use a government provided building. She gave us a quick tour pointing out posters with photos of students who had won awards at an educational Olympiad. The young children had Saturdays off and some of the older ones had a rehersal for the Independence Day celebration.
We visited the 10th graders during their history class. A few spoke some phrases in English. One girl translated a message of greeting to the Iranian people for Rowshan to bring to Iran. Rowshan told them the countries we had been to and had them name the capitals.
One boy up front told me in English how it was really important for him to learn English to work on relations between the US and Tajikistan and because he hoped to work in the US or do business between the US and Tajikistan. He said he'd been practicing English for 3 months. I was impressed by the complexity of the ideas he was trying to express even though he'd been studying for such a short time.
We left the kids to their history class and went down to have tea with a couple teachers. Fairuz mentioned the students were involved with the Jr. Achievers program. She also explained how they offered electives such as dance, chess and karate. Some of the younger kids joined in first peaking through the door, then gathering around us.
We met the founder's wife and later, the head of the school who was the son of the founder. He asked about private schools in America. It occurred to me that I was getting the feeling I used to get in the Peace Corps that a lot more importance than we deserved was being placed on us. I told him there were many private schools and probably every year more started because parents were frightened about sending their kids to public schools (and the quality of the public schools wasn't great). That said, I told them I didn't have any personal experience because I went to a (good) public school.
I was once again inspired by the hospitality of the Tajik people. It was an interesting visit. We enjoyed seeing the innovative and high quality school. Of course the kids were from wealthy, educated families: doctors, lawyers, etc. But even so, they seemed more enthusiastic about learning than many kids I've met from similar circumstances.