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QURGHONTEPPA, Tajikistan -- A court in the town of Qurghonteppa in southern Tajikistan has for the first time passed sentence on parents whose children failed for months to attend school, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Judge Rustam Nazarov told RFE/RL that the court imposed fines on August 31 of 3,500 somonis ($800) on the parents of four children who missed school from September 2009 until April 2010.

Nazarov said that the constitution obliges parents to enable their children to attend school and that all children between the ages of seven and 16 must do so.

One of the fathers who was fined told RFE/RL that he cannot understand why he is being punished for being unemployed and not in a position to buy his child clothes and shoes. He said if he had money he would buy those things and send his child to school.

Local prosecutor's office representative Mahmadsaid Nasimov said that most claims by parents that poverty prevents them from sending their children to school are baseless.

He added that as soon as an investigation was started into absenteeism, many parents immediately sent their children back to school.

Ismon Juraev, the chief inspector at the Qurghonteppa administration education department, said that during the last school year they discovered 44 children who missed school. Following joint intervention by the education department and the prosecutor's office, the number fell to six or seven.

Juraev said that this year, the provincial administration together with international humanitarian organizations and local businessmen launched a special charity project for children from poor families. They are provided with school uniforms and other necessities.