Textbooks embezzlement

Published January 11, 2022

CORRUPTION appears to be the common thread in the systemic issues that plague the country’s education sector. Be it the existence of ghost schools, hiring of teachers, utilisation of funds and resources, plagiarism in PhD papers or cheating in exams — all these problems point towards administrative, financial and ethical malfeasance by education officials.

One recent incident highlighting how deeply entrenched corruption is, emerged from South Punjab where an official of the Basic Education Community Schools — a federal project until recently — was caught selling this academic year’s course books of grades one till three at a scrap shop. The said official was reportedly caught selling, not a few dozen but, around 3,500 textbooks. News reports also quoted teachers saying that the official also blackmailed hapless teachers in Pakpattan and Okara into paying him between Rs1,000-Rs1,500 for the ‘delivery’ of books to the education warehouse. The teachers also stated that they complained several times to the relevant education authorities but received no response. One teacher, quoted in the story, stated that textbooks meant for BECS schools were being sold in Pakpattan markets for years.

Deplorable as it is, the situation is neither new nor surprising. Tales of all kinds of corruption in the education sector keep surfacing, even as the standard of education in the country keeps deteriorating. However, what is most shocking in this scenario is that federal education authorities took no action over a number of years against the crooked official even when reportedly intimated by the teachers. Corruption does not always involve the exchange of undue favours or funds: negligence and apathy by the authorities is also one of its manifestations. Although the said official has been arrested, it remains to be seen if he receives due punishment. If the authorities are truly serious about reforming the education sector, then they must begin by taking dishonest officials to task and improving service delivery. Effective governance and utilisation of resources are key to a robust education system in any country.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2022

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