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KARACHI, Nov 3: The Sindh education department has asked all provincial lawmakers and top administration officials to identify ghost schools and absent teachers so that ‘appropriate’ action could be taken, it emerged on Sunday.

In an Oct 29 letter addressed to all members of the Sindh Assembly and commissioners of Karachi, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Larkana and Sukkur divisions, the education department sought their cooperation to identify ghost schools and absent teachers.

The letter asked the commissioners to “depute assistant commissioners of talukas and towns in this regard and furnish a list on a monthly basis to the senior minister for education office in order to make a mechanism of monitoring at taluka and town levels through district administration”.

The letter stated that education was the backbone of socio-economic development of a country and without development in this sector “we cannot stand with dignity among strong nations of the world”.

It said that the present government was committed and determined to promote education, especially in the public sector, by all means, resources and manifestations.

The letter did not quantify the number of ghost schools but quoted senior minister Nisar Khuhro as saying: “We realise that the quality of education is declining and a large number of schools are closed for several reasons and there are several bottlenecks, but we are still hopeful about bringing legible and positive development in our education system.”

“In this context,” the letter quoted Mr Khuhro as saying, “I would like to request all honourable MPAs to please identify ghost and non-functional schools in their respective constituencies and also identify ghost teachers along with teacher who do no report to work, so that appropriate action may be taken.”

Recently, the provincial education department had submitted a report before the Sindh High Court which stated that around 4,540 schools in Sindh were not functioning properly and the number of ghost schools was about 2,181.

According to the report, some 49 ghost schools were in Karachi South, eight in Karachi East, 12 in Karachi West and three in Malir district, while 30 schools in Karachi East and four in West were not working.

Twenty schools in the city had been declared encroached upon by judicial officers.

In the rest of the province, said the report, the highest number of non-functional schools, 883, was in Thatta district, followed by 858 such schools in Thar, 202 in Shaheed Benazirabad district, 755 in Umerkot, 145 in Jamshoro, 270 in Shikarpur district, 271 in Kashmore-Kandhkot district, 195 in Naushahro Feroze district, 328 in Jacobabad district, 189 in Ghotki and 137 in Matiari districts.

Meanwhile, continued the report, 14 ghost schools were reported from Thatta district, 27 from Hyderabad district, 71 from Jamshoro, 294 from Badin district, 24 from Mirpurkhas, 253 from Sanghar, 558 from Shaheed Benazirabad, 271 from Dadu, 269 from Kambar-Shahdatkot, 57 from Shikarpur, 191 from Jacobabad, 48 from Ghotki and three from Tando Allahyar district.

According to the report, the lowest percentage of school-children in Karachi was in Malir while the highest was in Jacobabad district — 20 and 78.63 per cent — respectively.

The report put the rate of school-going children in Karachi South was 40.6 per cent, 33.13 per cent in Karachi East, 31.15 per cent in Karachi West and 47.73 per cent in Karachi Central.

Around 524 out of 48,227 schools in Sindh had been encroached upon, added the report.

Meanwhile, independent organizations put the number of ghost schools in Sindh between 6,000 and 8,000 ghost and the number of absent teachers in tens of thousands.

Till now the government and superior judiciary have taken various steps to resolve the situation but to no avail.

The Supreme Court in a directive had asked officials of the senior judiciary to raid schools and catch absentee staff members. But the frequency of visits and will to carry on with the programme subsided with the passage of time.

More recently, reports about the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) launching an investigation into the longstanding problem of made headlines but the plan never kicked off.