Bulunkul, Pamir

Posted on: 20 December 2021

Interview about education and tourism in Pamirs

Bulunkul is a small village in Pamir mountains of Tajikistan. Bahten Ruzadorova is the director of the elementary “School Nr. 8”, which is the one and only school in Bulunkul. She hosts tourists in her house during Summer months. You are likely to meet her on our Pamir tours, as we usually stay in her house. In this interview, we would like to introduce her to you.

BulunKul lake, Pamir nature

Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and Pamir?

I grew up in Alichur, Pamir and came to Bulunkul 27 years ago after I got married. I have three children — two sons and a daughter. We love living here among Pamir mountains; it is a very special place to live. Even though it seems flat, we are at an altitude of 3,734 meters [12,250 feet] above sea level. Our village- Bulunkul has extremely little precipitation and gets very cold in winter. We have the coldest-ever temperature of Tajikistan recorded here at the meteorological station (-63° Celsius or -81° Fahrenheit). We use only solar energy for light, but we must heat with coal or natural fuel during the winters.

In Bulunkul there is one school, one shop, and one medical station for emergencies. Everybody knows each other in the village, and we all help one another. I studied methodology of teaching, worked as a teacher here for 23 years, and in the last 10 years, I have worked as a director.

Bulunkul Village

The school director in the school’s library

How do you manage to combine your work at school & work in tourism?

From May to September, we have a school holiday, and in summer I rent rooms in my house for tourists. It is a perfect combination for me since I love working with children and I love getting to know new people. I am very happy when tourists who come to our village show interest in what we do and how we live, ask questions and take a time to understand our culture. I proudly show my school to them and tell them how we are constantly improving our school facilities.

The former Soviet Union, which Tajikistan was a part of until 1991, highly valued education; everywhere schools were built and were provided with the newest books. People were always encouraged to get an education, and we still have this philosophy.

Pamiri people, who are native to the Pamir region of Tajikistan, value education very highly. All families send their children to school. Here in Bulunkul, children can study only until the fourth grade, and after they should go to bigger cities in the country like Khorog, Murghab, or Rushan. Education is provided free in Tajikistan, and when our children go to the other cities to continue their studies, they live in dormitories and they do not need to pay for anything. It is hard for parents to let their children go to study far away from home, leaving when they are so young in the fifth grade. From the early grades, we try to teach our children to value education; we try to give them a firm base for further studies and help them get ready for studies somewhere else without constant care of their parents. Many of our children achieve great results, and we are very proud of them.

Nowadays we have more resources to teach and learn with modern books. As a director, I always seek new ways to improve the facilities at the school. We receive a lot of support from international foundations like the Aga Khan Foundation. I wrote a project request to repair the school, and after three years, I got my project approved and financed. Every year I write requests for school needs. For example, I get enough coal for the school heating. We are doing repair work on the school building, which we typically do during the summer holiday.

Bulunkul Village school

School in Bulunkul with 37 students and 2 teachers

Is it popular to learn languages here?

We live in a multilingual community. In my family, we speak Pamiri language at home, at school we study in the Tajik language. Children learn Russian and start English lessons in the third grade. We have also Kyrgyz families living here, and their kids also speak Kyrgyz.

In the first grade, it is hard for children to learn all these languages, however, it is amazing how fast they can learn. We have wonderful books from Aga Khan Foundation written in Kyrgyz, in Pamiri, in Russian, and in English. We try to enlarge our library so kids will be curious to learn from colorful books and enjoy the study process. Tourists make a big contribution; they bring us wonderful books. We also organize some extra lessons for learning languages after school.

Bulunkul Road sign

Road sign to Bulunkul in English and Russian

Does tourism bring a positive contribution to the development of your village?

I remember my first tourists back in 1998. They were from Estonia and were impressed by our nature and enjoyed staying with us. They promised us to bring books the following year, which they did! They sent a couple of books through other tourists. It is

Bulunkul, Village, Pamir

Kids playing during summer holidays

hard to send us post packages, as it is difficult for us to get parcels, or sometimes packages get lost on the way. We were very excited to get new books, and since then we had several tourists doing the same.

Another group, Ukrainians, promised us a generator as a gift for one school computer that we have, and they sent it through next travelers coming to visit. Another time, Canadians brought our children warm quality clothes that we cannot get here.  I am personally very grateful for the generosity and initiative of our visitors to support local communities and their choice to stay with us.

My school kids run up to me and ask if we have some new books from our guests. I am happy that kids get excited about new books, school supplies, and get curious about other cultures. When they see tourists, they try to use basic phrases in various languages. I think that one can learn a language by trying to speak it. I also try to learn English a bit by trying to explain my guest’s basic things, and every time I learn something new. Thus, I think that travelers contribute not only financially to our village but also encourage kids to be curious about other cultures.

Bulunkul, Meteorological Station

Meteorological station of Bulunkul, where coldest-ever temperature of Tajikistan was recorded (-63° Celsius or -81° Fahrenheit)

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