Heightened focus on education after Kazakhstan’s deadly protests | Times Higher Education
January 29, 2022 | By Pola Lem
Academics urge policymakers to tackle ‘root issues’ including corruption, unemployment and quality education
Weeks after deadly protests rocked Kazakhstan, academics are reflecting on recent events and government plans for systemic reform, which have put a spotlight on higher education.
In early January, simmering unrest in the country bubbled over, prompting 50,000 people to take to the streets to protest at Kazakhstan’s long-deteriorating political and economic situation and widespread corruption.
By mid-month, an estimated 225 of them had died – marking the deadliest event in country’s 30-year history since it declared independence from the Soviet Union.
The events shocked Kazakhs, forcing a reckoning in the country’s ruling party, including a transfer of power from the country’s former president Nursultan Nazarbayev to its current head, president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who has vowed to tackle the causes of unrest.
As policymakers prepared for overhauls, academics shared with Times Higher Education their hopes for the coming reforms.
“It was a very horrible situation – it changed everything,” said Sholpan Yessimova, vice-rector for academic innovations and graduate studies at Akhmet Yassawi University, in south-western Kazakhstan, of recent protests. But she wondered whether there might be a silver lining.
“The situation is giving opportunities and a new chance to changes in the HE system,” she said, adding that “we need to change, and this is being pushed by the president now”.
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