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KARACHI: A top provincial government official on Tuesday admitted that at least 40 per cent schools in Sindh were shut and 40pc schoolteachers were ghost employees eating up billions of rupees allocated for education in the province every year.

“I am not reluctant to confess that at least 40pc of our schools are shut and as many percentage of more than 100,000 teachers are ghost employees who are taking hefty salaries for doing nothing,” said Sindh Education Secretary Dr Fazlullah Pechuho at a seminar on children rights.

The seminar was organised by the Save the Children to launch the second phase of its project titled Children’s Action against Oppression and Neglect (CHAON) in which hundreds of thousands of children in Sindh’s Shaheed Benazirabad and Punjab’s Lodhran districts would be sensitised about their rights to ensure their involvement in the projects meant focus on the young population.

Dr Pechuho said the future of children was not as protected as it ought to be despite Rs131 billion allocation for the education sector in the budget. He said out of around four million schoolchildren, every year more than three-fourths quit in the transitory phase.

He admitted that infrastructure of many schools was in a shambles despite heavy spending and added, “even no washrooms are available in many female schools”.

He said many teachers did not attend schools and the education department was working on a strategy to get rid of such individuals or compel them to work for what they were paid for. According to rules, he explained, he could only suspend teachers and officials and shared with the audience some sombre experiences he had when he tried to sift such elements through all available powers he enjoyed.

“I have no hesitation in conceding that we have bad figures about the state of the affairs in education. In just one instance, 840 teachers were recruited in Naushahro Feroze district on fake grounds,” he added.

He highlighted the need to offer a better future to children and requested civil society to support him and the government to overhaul the department to improve the situation.

Officials of the Save the Children said CHAON was a child rights programme, the first phase of which had been completed in Punjab’s Muzaffargarh and Sindh’s Sanghar district since 2009.

The purpose of the project was to improve the lives of children in cotton growing districts of Pakistan as globally; Pakistan produced nine per cent of the total global production and was considered the fourth largest producer and the third largest global consumer.

The first phase of the project was implemented in 200 villages of Punjab and 150 villages of Sindh.

“By receiving protection from hazardous forms of child labour, abuse, violence, exploitation and neglect, the lives of 199,000 children were improved in the five years,” said a speaker.

In second phase, he added, as many as 153,000 children in 350 communities would be targeted by district child protection system till 2018 and provided better access to education and health care.

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2014