With the referendum out of the way, Tajikistan is back to usual business: banning things.
On May 24, Education and Science Minister Nuriddin Said issued a decree abolishing the cherished tradition of the “final bell,” wherein graduating secondary school students celebrate their last day of class.
Terms ends this year on June 7, but instead of the usual merriment, students will simply attend class and then presumably be expected to forlornly file home.
According to Said, failure to enforce this new order will result in punitive measures against education ministry officials and headmasters.
Unaccountable as it may seem for a country’s whose educational system is so riddled with shortcomings, the final bell has become something of an obsession. Every year has brought new amendments and restrictions.
In 2007, the name of the final day was changed from “final bell,” as it is known across most of the former Soviet space, to “bell of maturity” and the date pushed back from May 25 to June 6. That provision was intended to dampen the ardor of revelry and was accompanied by a ban on parties in restaurants, whip-rounds for graduating students, gift-giving and mass outdoor gatherings.
Typically, the day begins at 8 a.m. with a 45-minute assembly at students bring balloons, dance and sing. Diplomas, medals and awards are handed out.
The ban on grand last-day celebrations is based in part, it would seem, on concerns that some parties can on occasion get out of control. Some students mark the day by riding in cars, often recklessly and great speed, around their neighborhoods and on occasion cause fatal accidents.
Under a novelty introduced in 2015, the headmaster’s final address was accompanied by the reading out of a ministerial decree detailing the rules regulating graduating exams, not exactly setting a celebratory note. That same year, parents were denied permission to attend final bell proceedings, as was previously customary.
Even younger children have not been spared the banning mania. Authorities in 2012 scrapped the traditional final day Azbuka (“alphabet”) celebration, where first grade pupils would perform songs to parents and teachers with words to demonstrate how much they had learned in the outgoing year. The ostensible motivation for such bans was that parents are traditionally expected to organize a whip-round as a gift for the teacher, which authorities felt unduly penalized the indigent.
Scotching parties is a speciality for Tajikistan’s government. Last New Year’s Eve, education authorities ordered schools not to erect the traditional seasonal spruce trees, be they real or artificial. Instead, the Education and Science Ministry suggested organizing cultural and sports events.
A recent incident of party-crashing has caused particular scandal. On May 15, police aggressively dispersed a gathering of young people celebrating the Hindi fesitival of Holi in Dushanbe on the grounds that the event was haram — not in compliance with Muslim customs. What particularly aggrieved the public was the level of physical violence used against the underage children.
Still, as the saying goes, when God closes a door, he opens a window.
Tajiks now have other days on which they can freely celebrate. There is the newly created President’s Day, on November 16, Flag Day on November 24 and then National Language Day on October 5, which happens to fall on President Emomali Rahmon’s birthday.