According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), parents play a particularly key role in influencing development in the early years. In order to support young families, the Aga Khan Education Service (AKES) in Tajikistan hosts an annual Navroz programme in Khorog and Ishkashim to educate students aged three to six years.
Held at the AKES Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres in Tajikistan, such events to celebrate the Navroz festival offer an opportunity for young students to experience traditions from their ancestral heritage in a relevant and fun learning environment.
Navroz, meaning ‘new day,’ is celebrated every year on 21 March amongst various cultures and faith communities around the world. This festival of spring embodies rich traditions, symbolising a season of bounty, and a time for renewed hope and new beginnings.
At the ECD centres, the occasion is made even more special for children. It becomes a collaborative event with parents playing a fundamental role. Every year, families assist with creating costumes and celebratory foods, and help students learn traditional poems, speeches, and dances.
“The student’s parents enjoy participating in and helping to organise the celebrations for their children,” said Shoishirinova Ganjina, a teacher in Khorog.
“This year, parents have organised an amazing traditional food exhibition,” she explained, “which represents an even larger learning platform around our customs and traditions. This cooperation benefits both the students’ learning and contributes to the wonderful unity of our community.”
Symbolising the first day of spring and the blessings of nature, Navroz promotes the values of peace, mutual respect and solidarity, and friendship. At the ECD Centre, in line with the spring tradition, teachers and children prepare for Navroz by participating in a symbolic spring cleaning of the house.
During the celebration, a table is laid with traditional dishes lovingly made by the students’ grandparents which include: boorsoq (bread), kulcha (small round bread), bat (sweet food), oshi burida (bread with nuts), and omoch (traditional soups). With the help of their teachers, the students try to guess what the dishes are made from whilst tasting the delicious delicacies.
“Imparting cultural and traditional knowledge and skills from the early years is among the most important and valuable learning they receive at the Early Childhood Development Centre,” said Suhailo Sulaimonova, mother of a four year old ECD student.
The goal behind these simple activities is to instil a sense of familiarity and joy in celebrating Navroz. It also encourages students to ask more questions, reflect and share observations with their teachers, friends, and family. Ultimately, this helps them find comfort and confidence as they begin to develop an understanding of the rich traditions that have been passed down through their families and communities.
As they grow, students will apply these learnings to other areas of their lives, and one day it will be their own responsibility to share this knowledge with the next generation – as the cycle of rebirth continues, just as Navroz comes around every year.