Tajikistan gets its first English library

The country's only English library comes courtesy of British entomologist Paul Marchant, who spent a decade and his savings, setting up and running the Sworde Teppa English school in Qurghonteppa.

Photo by: Sworde Teppa
Photo by: Sworde Teppa

Students in front of the Sworde Teppa school, which offers Tajik children an opportunity to study English for free.

Qurghonteppa, a city in Tajikistan not too far from the border with Afghanistan got its first ever English library, thanks to British entomologist Paul Marchant.

A total of 30,000 books were shipped to the city from Kent in the United Kingdom by Marchant, who had set up Sworde Teppa, an English-language project which gives children an opportunity to learn the language.

“I heard that Kent County Council were disposing of about 30,000 books, and so I did loads of trips in my dad’s car to pick them up and had them shipped to Tajikistan in two containers,” he told the Guardian.

Marchant’s first trip to Tajikistan was in 1999 as a researcher studying the efficacy of mosquito nets as part of his job as an entomologist.

Initially, Sworde Teppa began as an environmental organisation, but became an English school after Marchant realised children in the country did not have many educational opportunities.

In its story, the Guardian says over 3,000 students have attended the school over the past decade.

The cost for a monthly English programm is 80 somoni (£8), but almost half the students are studying for free.

“I was able to study thanks to Sworde Teppa, so now I want to teach and give back,” 24-year-old former student Shahnoza Davlatzoda told the Guardian.

After her studies, she was able to apply for a business degree at the Kazakh-American University in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Dedicated to his cause, Marchant kept the school open with his personal savings and had only travelled back to the UK after a decade.

“Some of the teachers haven’t been paid for two months. It wouldn’t be right for me to be dashing off on trips. If I had the money, I would use it to pay them,” he said.

Learning English is not widespread in the country and the teaching faculty of the school is limited.

However, some of the teachers choose to stay and continue trying.

Amirali Norov, 25, is one of them.

She teaches English at the local university and said that students' English level at Sworde Teppa is higher than those at the university.

Marchant said, “We do have a problem that when people do well, they leave our school. But the whole point is to build capacity and give people more life options, so that’s ok.”

TRTWorld and agencies