KYRGYZSTAN: Exams go ahead at damaged universities

Several badly damaged universities in Southern Kyrgyzstan re-opened this week for the first time since unrest erupted in mid-June, to allow students to take their final examinations. But the future of the universities destroyed in recent violence is still unclear, it emerged from a meeting between the Kyrgyz Education Ministry and western donors that took place on Thursday.

Osh state university was able to hold examinations in buildings or parts of buildings that were not damaged. It is one of the largest universities in the country, with 21,000 students and buildings in Osh and Jalalabad in Southern Kyrgyzstan, the area most affected by recent violence.

"Students have been returning," said Gulnara Chokusheva, coordinator in Kyrgyzstan of he European Union's Tempus project aimed at modernising higher education in the region. "The university has made it a priority to hold the exam. The students will get their degrees."

"This is a university with many faculties and buildings. Some faculties were damaged and others were not damaged. So examinations are taking place in buildings which are not damaged," Chokusheva said.

However she said the main university building in Osh had been destroyed by fire "and it is impossible to be inside or continue any classes there. Most students are at home."

Jalalabad State University, Jalalabad Medical College and Kyrgyz Uzbek University in both Jalalabad and Osh were destroyed, affecting more than 12,000 students.

The events of recent weeks, which have resulted in some 260 deaths, have also affected school children hoping to apply to university. The Education Ministry said Osh Secondary School No 13 with 400 children was completely destroyed. Another secondary school in the village of Sharp, which educated 860, was also burned down.

Decisions on the universities' future will only be made after the referendum this weekend intended to legitimise the interim government.

The acting rectors of seven of the countries largest universities will have to be confirmed officially in their jobs after the referendum.

Meanwhile, the rector of Osh State University Mukhtar Orozbekov was said to have fled the city after arousing local anger for speaking out in favour of the Uzbek population, and has not been seen for ten days.

* Last week, Yojana Sharma reported that the governments of a number of countries moved swiftly to evacuate their nationals, many of them students in Southern Kyrgyztan, as violence erupted in the southern part of the Central Asian Republic, the worst unrest to hit the country since the ousting of former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April.

Click here to read the full story.