Education International
Education International

Uzbekistan: cotton harvest enslaves teachers and students

published 2 October 2014 updated 8 October 2014

Global action demands end to forced labour in Uzbek cotton fields. Protestors call on Government to stop using education system as tool of modern-day slavery.

October 1 was National Teacher’s Day in Uzbekistan, but many classrooms were empty as teachers and in some cases their students were sent to the fields to harvest cotton. The Government of Uzbekistan is the sole organizer and beneficiary of this forced-labor system of cotton production, and is thus responsible for denying access to education for all. On September 30th, the Government received a petition from concerned people around the globe calling on them to change course. Actions to deliver the petition were organized at the Uzbek Ministry of Education in Tashkent and Uzbek embassies in five cities: Washington DC, London, Paris, Berlin and Seoul.

Teachers hit hardest

Preliminary reports from the 2014 harvest mobilization, which began September 15, indicate that public sector workers, particularly teachers and professors, will be particularly hard hit this year. All universities and institutes of higher learning have been shut down so professors and students can participate in a mandatory 40-day shift picking cotton. Other public institutions are required to ensure 40 to 70 percent of staff are in the fields at any given time. Education has ceased entirely in some parts of the country as teachers fulfil their cotton quotas.

Sign the petition!

The petition to demand the Uzbek Government end this forced labor system has been signed by tens of thousands of people from every continent. Printed were delivered to the Uzbek Government at each action site, where protestors will demand that Uzbek teachers and students should be in classrooms, not cotton fields.

You can join in and sign the petition here: http://bit.ly/1Dlun7A