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Heads Roll Over Uzbek Nursery-School Scandal


Images of an employee at an Uzbek nursery school wielding a knife in front of toddlers, and rumors that the state facility moonlighted as a brothel have led to multiple arrests and firings.

A government official in Uzbekistan's southern Surkhondaryo Province, where CCTV images reportedly captured the alleged abuses at school N10 in the Denov district, told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service on condition of anonymity that the head of Denov's education department and an official who oversees the Surkhondaryo Province's preschools were dismissed this week.

Surkhondaryo law enforcement agencies, meanwhile, have reported that in the wake of the scandal that erupted over the footage shot in November that two preschool teachers and two guards at N10 have each been sentenced to three years in prison, while a third teacher was given a two-year sentence.

Overall, nearly 20 people have been dismissed since the CCTV footage emerged, according to officials.*

One video, dated November 18, 2016, shows a woman punishing children for allegedly failing to memorize poetry and accusing children of telling their parents what goes on at N10.

"I'll cut off your tongue," she says.

"I didn't tell them anything, auntie," a sobbing child pleads.

The woman continues threatening the child with the knife while two nearby teachers laugh and push other children toward the woman.

Authorities recorded the incident after surveillance cameras were installed in several nursery schools in the province following allegations that some were being used as brothels, according to an employee at the Surkhondaryo prosecutor's office.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said additional criminal cases had been opened and that court trials were still ongoing.

Surkhondaryo parents attending the trials have expressed concern that N10's director has been allowed to continue her work.

"Two of my grandchildren go to that nursery," one man told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service. "One of them is shown in the video.... I couldn't watch the video till the end."

The man lamented that parents would dismiss their children's reluctance to go the nursery school as a "tantrum."

"Besides, children were afraid to complain to their parents because they knew they would be punished by the teachers for doing so," the grandparent said. He suggested that many of the children have been traumatized by the abuse.

"Some have developed speech problems, some started wetting themselves," he said.

Written by Farangis Najibullah with reporting by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service and local media
* This story has been corrected to say that 20 people have been dismissed, not arrested, since the CCTV footage emerged.
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