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DUSHANBE -- Huge billboards urging people to denounce corruption have been prominently placed in front of two Tajik universities this month, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

The billboards, in the capital, Dushanbe, depict two hands: one extended hand offering cash with another hand rejecting the apparent bribe by pushing the money back.

"We Say NO to Bribery in the Education Sector," read the billboards, which appeared ahead of the winter exam season at Tajik universities.

The billboards were prepared by Tajikistan's anticorruption agency along with the Dushanbe offices of the UN Development Fund and Britain's Department for International Development.

Corruption is rampant in Tajikistan, and the country's education sector is particularly notorious for its widespread bribery.

Several students at Tajikistan's National University (TNU) told RFE/RL that some professors demand a bribe in order to pass a test and there is even a concrete price for each exam and test, ranging from 30 to 100 somonis (approximately $6-$20).

In a recent meeting with students at TNU, Education Minister Abdujabbor Rahmonov admitted that bribery exists in Tajik universities. But he blamed the students' parents for the problem.

"It's common knowledge which professors at which schools accept bribes," Rahmonov said. "It wasn't like this before. It's the parents' fault. I personally heard some of them saying they would agree to pay a bribe as long as their children pass their exams."

TNU student Abubakr Mulloev told RFE/RL that he hopes the anticorruption billboards will prompt students and professors to think twice before giving or receiving bribes.

Mulloev said "many university professors -- although not all of them -- have let students know how much their exams and tests will cost."

Tajikistan is ranked 152 in the 2011 Corruption Index of Transparency International, a body that annually ranks countries on their perceived levels of corruption.
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