Balochistan govt cracks down on 'ghost', absentee teachers as education sector flounders

Updated December 14, 2018

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Children sit on the floor at an open-air school in Balochistan. — Asmatullah Khan/File
Children sit on the floor at an open-air school in Balochistan. — Asmatullah Khan/File

The Balochistan government has stepped up action against 'ghost' employees and chronic absentee teachers to improve the woeful state of education in the province, where over a million children remain out of schools.

At least 1,800 state-run primary, middle and high schools in the province have been found to be non-functional. Another 2,200 schools are without shelter and 5,000 primary schools across Balochistan are being run by single teachers, according to documents of the education department obtained by DawnNewsTV.

"We have suspended 179 teachers, ordered inquiries against 97 and issued show-cause notices to 82 during the past one month," said Balochistan Education Secretary Tayyab Lehri while talking about the government crackdown on ghost and absentee teachers.

See: Schools without roofs: the state of govt-run schools in Balochistan

The education department has also deducted over Rs141 million from the salaries of chronically absent teachers during the last three years, the documents show.

The total number of government-run primary, middle and high schools across Balochistan is said to exceed 13,000. The government has already declared an education emergency in the province to ensure implementation of Article 25-A of the Constitution, which guarantees free education for children aged five to 16.

Despite this, however, "Over one million children [in Balochistan] are presently out of schools," Lehri told DawnNewsTV.

In order to remedy the sorry state of affairs, the provincial cabinet recently approved the Balochistan Essential Education Service Act, 2018. Under the proposed legislation, teachers will be barred from observing strikes, lock classrooms or boycott classes to have their demands met.

The move has sparked a strong condemnation from the teachers' community, who term it a violation of their constitutional and basic human rights. "We will not accept this act since it negates fundamental human rights," Agha Zahir, the chief of 'teachers action committee' told a crowded press conference at the Quetta Press Club.

Teachers have also warned they will launch a protest movement to force the government to withdraw the proposed law.