Tajik leader to feature on university entrance exams

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Dushanbe (Tajikistan) (AFP)

Tajikistan's leader has become the inspiration for at least two essays to be included in university entrance examinations in a move apparently aimed at boosting his personality cult.

The titles of the proposed essays suggest there is little room for students to offer critical responses.

Emomali Rakhmon, 65, is presiding over a flourishing leadership cult as he approaches a quarter of a century as the impoverished Central Asian country's president.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the country's educational institutions, critics say.

A spokesman for the education ministry told AFP students will be able to choose from a number of essays in the new entrance examinations including "Leader of the Nation -- Defender of the Nation" and "We are Followers of the Leader of the Nation."

Rakhmon, who led his country out of a civil war that claimed tens of thousands of lives in the 1990s, was awarded in 2015 the Leader of the Nation title that allows him and his family lifelong immunity from prosecution among other privileges.

The new entrance tests, set to enter force later this year, will inevitably raise questions about whether criteria for accepting students into universities are becoming politicised.

Last year, a music teacher at a school in the capital Dushanbe was fired for skipping a televised showing of Rakhmon's end-of-year address.

She was reinstated last month after she told her story to several media outlets.

Mountainous Tajikistan, the poorest former Soviet republic, shares a 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) border with Afghanistan, the world's largest producer of opium and heroin.

Out of 180 countries, the Central Asian country ranked 161st on anti-graft watchdog Transparency International's most recent corruption perceptions index released earlier this year.