PAKISTAN

Pakistan’s ghost schools… "partly funded by the World Bank"

One of our Observers in Pakistan tells us that in the Sindh province alone there are more than 7,000 schools - partly financed by the World Bank - which don't actually exist. The money is pouring into the local authorities, but the schools are never opened.

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A school which serves as a barn for animals. Photo published on the front page of daily Dawn 30 April 09.

One of our Observers in Pakistan tells us that in the Sindh province alone, there are more than 7,000 schools - partly financed by the World Bank - which don't actually exist. The money is pouring into the local authorities, but the schools are never opened.

Another of our Pakistani Observers, Awab Alvi alerted us to this story.

"There are around 25,000 ghost schools in the country"

Naeem Sadiq is an engineer in Karachi, Pakistan. He's a member of The People's Resistance, a group of around 50 "ordinary" civilians who fight for the correct functioning of the country's constitution.

The Sindh Education Minister, Pir Mazhar ul Haq, says that there are 7,700 ghost schools in the province. There is, however, finally some good news regarding this issue: on April 5, 2009 the miscreants who had occupied the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto School at Goth Qaim Kharrul of the Dadu district decided to move out. However, arithmetic tells us that if we continue at this rate, it will take us 7,700 more years to eliminate all of them! And that's only in our province - according to our estimations, there are around 25,000 ghost schools in the country.

Ghost schools fall under numerous categories. Some were constructed not for the sake of children but as money-making endeavours for those involved in unscrupulous activities. This ranges from turning them into cattle pens, camps for flood-affected people, fodder storage centres and autaqs (guest houses). If one goes by government records, most of these schools appear to be functioning. The teachers employed for these schools stay at home or pursue other gainful professions. The entire process is facilitated by bribing the concerned superiors to ensure ‘all year round uninterrupted payment of salaries'.

The education ministry needs to come out with the list of teachers who received salaries and the details of disbursement of funds to these schools over the years. Action can be taken to put an immediate end to this ‘ghostly' phenomenon. The government should stop giving funds to ghost schools even if the recipients are their supporters. But they don't, for two reasons: incompetence and corruption. The most incredible thing is that the educational reform system in the province is partly funded by the World Bank [75 million euros was granted in 2007].

Community-based school monitoring and reporting systems could be instituted. Any citizen should be able to file a complaint about the absence of teachers or if any other irregularity is found. But can we ever compensate those thousands of children whose future has been destroyed because we siphoned millions from the state exchequer - funds and resources that were intended to keep schools functional for them? The guilty must be held accountable."