An initiative to expand higher education opportunities in Central Asia is experiencing a bumpy start.
The source of controversy is footage of an apparently acrimonious confrontation between local residents in Naryn, an economically depressed city in mountainous southeast Kyrgyzstan, and students from a new university in the area. Amid a cacophony of yelling and laughing, and showing a handful of police officers looking on, the footage seems to depict foreign students, along with a university administrator, being forced to kneel and ask for the forgiveness of a crowd for allegedly offensive behavior.
It could not have been a more inauspicious start to operations at the University of Central Asia’s Kyrgyzstan campus, which is located about a 30-minute drive outside Naryn. The location for the university branch may seem unlikely, but it was carefully selected and intended by its founders — led by Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini, or the Aga Khan as he is better known — to make higher education more accessible for Central Asian students in remote mountain regions.
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Nurjamal Djanibekova is a reporter based in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.