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Tuesday, Sep 02 , 2014 ( Thul-Qedah, 1435)

Updated:10:00 PM GMT

Pakistan’s Ghost Schools

By Aamir Latif, OnIslam Correspondent
Ghost schools in Pakistan
Estimates show that there are thousands of schools in Pakistan that only exist on papers, but are being used in purposes other than education
Pakistan, ghost schools, teachers

ISLAMABAD – Being used as meeting places for bigwigs and chieftains and for drug addiction, thousands of schools have been built in Pakistan for purposes other than education.

“The numbers of these schools are in thousands in all over Pakistan, especially in Sindh,” Qazi Asif, a Karachi-based analyst who deals with education and health affairs, told OnIslam.net on Thursday, March 8.

“I even don’t trust the government figures in this regard. The figures might be beyond our estimations.”

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Estimates show that there are thousands of schools in Pakistan that only exist on papers, but are being used in purposes other than education.

Government estimates suggest that almost 25,000 of these ‘ghost schools’ exist throughout the south Asian Muslim country, a majority of them are in Sindh province and southwestern Balochistan province.

Many of these schools are being used as cattle farms or meeting places for drug addicts and other criminal gangs.

A recently-held survey by the provincial education department suggests that a majority of ghost schools have been found in remote and less developed districts in Sindh as Jacobabad, Thatta, Sanghar, Dadu, Shikarpur, and Ghotki, where the roots of tribal system are deep and strong.

A senior education department official said officials found heavy weapons dumped by local tribes in these schools to be used in tribal clashes.

“We were appalled to see two to three school buildings in a village comprising not more than 30 to 50 houses,”  the officials, who has been involved in the survey, told OnIslam.net.

“Their compounds were either lying abandoned or were being used by the villagers as cattle farms”, the official disclosed.

“In our record, salaries to thousands of teachers of such schools are paid every month, but when we reached there, there was nothing except animals chewing their cuds, drug addicts or depleted and abandoned compounds.”

Government reports suggest that thousands of ghost teachers, who either only exist on papers or never go to schools to teach, have been drawing salaries to the tune of millions of rupees every month.

“Neither these teachers go to schools to teach nor do their students even turn up to study. They (teachers) just get salaries while sitting at home,” analyst Qazi Asif said.

Literacy rate in Pakistan hovers around 50 percent, putting the country in 160th place on world league tables -- only just above Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Nepal in the region.

Pakistan spends merely 2 percent of its GDP on education, contrary to a UN suggestion that at least 4 percent of the GDP should be disbursed for this purpose.

Politics

Analysts blame politics for the high numbers of ghost schools in the South Asian Muslim country.

“These schools have been granted by successive governments on political basis in order to make their political allies happy,” Qazi Asif told OnIslam.net.

“No one can oppose the construction of schools, but they are never used for education purpose. They are used as cattle forms or drawing rooms of area bigwigs.”

Ijaz Shaikh, another Karachi-based analyst, said area politicians and influential people get their illiterate peasants and farmers as teachers in these ghost schools to grab votes in elections.

“They are not worried about promotion of literacy in their areas,” Shaikh, who hails from Sindh, told OnIslam.net.

“They are worried about how much benefits they have got for their political allies during their tenure.”

The World Bank and the European Union have already voiced concern over the existence of ghost schools in Pakistan, particularly in Sindh.

Shaikh opines that local people want their children to get education, but they cannot take on the tribal chieftains and influential politicians.

“These politicians and tribal lords send their children abroad for education, but for common children, they arrange these ghost schools.”

Worse still, regular teachers hire unemployed youth to teach in these schools, while they take care of their business.

“Taking inspiration from ghost schools, hundreds of regular teachers have hired their sub-teachers i.e. unemployed area youths who visit and teach students in place of regular teachers twice or thrice a week, and get a share from their salaries,” Qazi said.

The regular teachers, according to Qazi, are engaged in their side businesses to earn extra money.

“They consider teaching a part-time job. They are more interested in their family businesses.

“Millions are sanctioned on a yearly basis for the construction and the maintenance of these schools, which in reality never exist or are paper-based schools,” he fumed.

“This is biggest crime, which the ruler and these ghost teachers are committing to our future generations.”
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