Teachers in Kazakhstan have reportedly complained that their bosses are forcing them to buy tickets for the EXPO-2017 world fair in Astana, raising questions about the extent authorities are going to in trying to make the event a success.
Organizers of the event have said they are concerned by the reports and are taking measures to stamp out such occurrences.
As Nur.kz has reported, tickets can range upward of 4,000 tenge (around $13), which while not huge, is an unwelcome bite out salaries that are anything but generous. According to official figures, teachers in secondary schools averagely make around 109,000 tenge ($350) a month.
EXPO-2017, which opens its doors on June 10 and runs through to September 10, is devoted to the theme of optimizing energy use. Hundreds of nations and dozens of companies are slated to participate. Organizers have optimistically predicted that 2 million people will flock to the exhibition.
But RFE/RL’s Kazakhstan service, Radio Azattyk, has reported that some arm-twisting may be required to hit that target. A teacher at a school in the Zaisansky district in the East Kazakhstan region told the broadcaster that he was required to buy a ticket by his superior. Twenty tickets were brought to his place of work to be sold in a similar fashion, he said.
“E-tickets were sent by the regional administrative center. The school has to buy 20 tickets. A few teachers have bought tickets for 6,000 tenge. But I am not going myself. During the exhibition, it will be time for gathering in the hay,” he said.
A teacher from the same region told Azattyk that she too was made to buy a ticket, although she only paid 4,000 tenge. She said she has no plans to go herself, but will give the tickets instead to her children, who live in Astana.
The head of the Zaisansky district department of education said that tickets were indeed offered to teachers, but only as a way to spread awareness of the fair.
“The akim of the region said that the EXPO is the policy of the president, the state, and he instructed us, the heads of villages and community leaders, to spread the word. We told the teachers that there were tickets and that it would only be right if they visited the exhibition. Those who want to can go, the others know what to do,” he said.
Organizers of the exhibition have said that forcing people to buy tickets is illegal. The head of the public affairs department of EXPO-2017, Sergei Kuyanov, said there have been 20 recorded cases of illegal tickets sales since the start of the year. Workers in the medical sector have also reportedly been forced to buy tickets.
“In connection with these occurrences, we have created a special WhatsApp hotline. Teachers can take pictures of their purchased ticket and send it to to us, and we will investigate every case,” Kuyanov said.
Tickets for EXPO-2017 are available for sale at numerous retail points in cities across Kazakhstan, but to the anxiety of organizers, demand appears to be weak.