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The schools also known as ‘shadow schools’ were perpetuating cycles of abject poverty, child labour and unemployment and compounded poor performance in education indicators.  — File Photo by Shameen Khan
The schools also known as ‘shadow schools’ were perpetuating cycles of abject poverty, child labour and unemployment and compounded poor performance in education indicators. — File Photo by Shameen Khan

ISLAMABAD: Ghost schools in Pakistan result in leakage of billions of rupees and exacerbate the high levels of frustration experienced by the overlooked, neglected and disenfranchised youths.

Such schools also represent lost opportunities for progress of millions of children, says the ‘Global Corruption Report’ released by the Transparency International (TI) on Tuesday.

The report says that despite decades of intervention by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Unesco and many other international multilateral institutions, corruption in Pakistan has contributed to bringing public sector governance mechanisms close to collapse. The education sector is severely affected by corruption, threatening the quality of more than 150,000 government-supported schools across the country.

The schools also known as ‘shadow schools’ were perpetuating cycles of abject poverty, child labour and unemployment and compounded poor performance in education indicators.

Over half of the Pakistani children do not have access to education and the country is projected to have the largest out-of-school population, of 3.7 million, in the region by 2015.

The report says that ghost schools and other means of corruption in the education sector are currently a low-risk, high-return activity, which could be facilitated by a network of corrupt actors positioned in strategic posts.

Such practices must be urgently addressed to protect the future of 21 million students in the world’s sixth most populous nation. No effort or resources should be spared to give the future generations the opportunity to rise from poverty, fully equipped to face the challenges of tomorrow for a more prosperous Pakistan.

Political will is the first prerequisite for change, yet corruption in education is so pervasive that it permeates the highest ranks in the country. While education may not be valued by all at the highest levels of government, across all provinces in Pakistan demand for high-quality education is strong. Giving the children the education they deserve will require transforming political will through continued media attention and community involvement, according to the report.

Addressing ghost schools requires strengthening of accountability, and this includes holding school heads to account if payments are found to be going to non-existent teachers. It might entail depositing salaries directly into the banking accounts of teachers, making it easier to verify who is receiving funds, says the report.

It has also been recommended that government auditors visit each school annually and certify the school’s physical existence, with verification by independent third parties. Improving accountability can also mean drawing on the resources outside the education sector for collaboration. The report says the phenomenon of ‘ghost schools’ ranks as the most troubling. So-called ghost schools exist on government rosters, but provide no services to students, although the teachers or administrators assign to these schools continue to receive salary. Corruption has undermined the reputation of the education sector in many countries. Almost one in five people worldwide paid bribes to education services last year while in the poorest countries the number rises to one in three, the report states.

One overarching recommendation of the report is the need to reach a better understanding of education as an essential tool in itself in the fight against corruption. The social role and value of the school and the teacher must be placed at the forefront of education policy and anti-corruption efforts. National policy-makers should see the teacher as a role model and the school as a microcosm of society and train teachers to teach by example.

Comments (10) Closed

ASIF SARWAR Oct 02, 2013 10:00am

Last elections shows that country's elites are more than happy to keep the masses illiterate so that they remain under abject poverty and dependent of their masters and continue voting them back to power. Filling pockets of their cronies through ghost schools is added advantage to keep them loyal.

Masroor Oct 02, 2013 01:28pm

I have lived and worked in Khuzdar and I do realise the urgent need to do some thing positive and do it promptly. It is high cost to build any school these days. It is a shame that we let it become Ghost schools in Pakistan.

Since our NGOs are infested with corruption too. We surely need to think out of the box, as it were.

I suggest, we organise a team of volunteers to visit each school frequently and certify the school

Amir Oct 02, 2013 01:33pm

How can we feel it is okay to be corrupt at the cost of cheating our own kids?

Lea Oct 02, 2013 05:10pm

You will find the people in government to be guilty of partaking in the theft. That is why no one ever gets arrested and prosecuted and the problems never change. The very people who are paid to do a job are the ones at fault.

Janikhel Oct 02, 2013 09:13pm

@Masroor: Your intentions are of high morals, but Pakistan's corruption problem starts at the very top, which means at President level, and then it trickles down to Prime Minister and goes all the down to the Police Constable level, to root out, you ought to give these people a major thrashing, like shock to the system, and set few examples.

abdullah Oct 02, 2013 09:31pm

the ghost school term is very old.the beneficiary has changed it into oataqs and chatting they regularly visit it,put sign on very shining master roll.if someone does not come his colleague put his sign.if a monitoring officer who may have some personal grudge visit the school, the absentee teacher is called through mobile phones and shows his physical presence.we have to move forward by assessing teacher by his performance in class.

GM Oct 03, 2013 07:15am

Why would Politicians want our Kids to be literate. How would they get their votes if these kids will start using their brains.

Akram Oct 03, 2013 01:32pm

This is essentially about poor management, the state is spending huge amounts and wasting it, by not accounting for where it is going, or whether the money spent is being effective. Those doing the fraud should go to jail and repay back what they have taken. This is not beyond the writ of man to solve. Each province needs to take this matter more seriously as this is really holding back the nations development.

One thing to be done is to inform locals about their local state funded schools through the internet. Each province should publish by district and by photo a list of its schools in the area, and its exam results. When locals are informed that someone is pocketing their education budget it will lead to further action. There should be a phone number to report ghost schools or improper behaviour at the federal level. There should be locals and people at federal level who keep an eye on every rupee spent. Once it is all transparent the corruption will end.

EQ8Rhomes Oct 04, 2013 02:19am

@Amir: Many people around the world do not even think of the welfare of their own children, even when they have the means, why would they care about others' children. These people do not think of all children as "our children"---but as agents of personal profit and agrandizement at any cost. I was a teacher, and I know the world of education from the inside. Too many parents, too, at all levels of society think only of their offspring.

EQ8Rhomes Oct 04, 2013 02:23am

@Masroor: I am sorry, such a "volunteer group" will turn into a monster beast wanting to be fed first. It is a worldwide experience. The road to H*ll is (very well) paved ....