Over 1,200 ghost schools found all over the country

 Waseem Abbasi

The International News

ISLAMABAD: A fresh study has revealed that there are 1,205 ghost schools in Pakistan where teachers are getting salaries for ‘promoting literacy’ but no educational activity is taking place at all.

 The study conducted by third party validation teams hired by the government revealed that ghost schools exist in all provinces of Pakistan under the Basic Education Community Schools (BECS) project, which is supervised by the Ministry of Education. The project is being run with a hefty budget of Rs7 billion.

 However, sadly, the Minister of State for Education and Training Balighur Rehman appears to be completely unaware of the fact, revealed in the study, that 57 such ghost “schools” are operating right under his nose in the Federal Capital.

 “I have not seen any report on ghost schools yet,” the minister told The News when his attention was drawn towards the recent study.The minister was of the view that the government would only initiate action against ghost schools once the final report of the third party survey team is received by the ministry.

 However, according to an official letter written by the Project Director of the BESC, Sajid Baloch, the fieldwork of the third party validation team has already been completed and the first draft has detected 1205 ghost schools under the project.

 The letter gives the break-up of these ghost schools where no teaching activity is taking place while the national exchequer is continuously used to pay salaries to teachers and the related project staff.

 According to draft report, out of total 13,213 schools under BECS, only 12,008 are functional. The report has pointed out 57 ghost schools in Islamabad. Overall, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) takes the lead in hosting ghost schools with 345 such institutions while Fata has 305. There are 276 ghost schools in Punjab, 69 in Balochistan, 64 in Sindh, 48 in Azad Kashmir and 41 in Gilgit Baltistan.

 In his letter written on July 5, 2013, Baloch promised the Ministry of Education officials that he would furnish the accurate number of un-authorized and non-functional schools within a week. But he failed to do so after the lapse of more than seven weeks.

 The BECS is a project of the Ministry of Education aimed at enabling poor children from far flung rural areas and urban slums to complete primary education. However, according to sources barely 20 per cent of the enrolled students make it to class fourth and fifth, speaking volume of improper supervision and corruption in the project.

 A recent report of Auditor General of Pakistan had pointed out massive irregularities in the provincial division of the BECS but the Ministry of Education had not taken action on even a single point of the audit report despite the laps of one year. The report mentioned irregular expenditure worth Rs51.48 million in the appointment of 130 supervisors who had no sanction post.

 According to sources, the management of the project had always been able to please the higher ups in the Ministry with gifts of official cars and fuel, thus escaping any scrutiny by the Ministry.

 Last week, the Ministry of Finance also launched an inquiry into dozens of illegal promotions in BECS. The violation of rules in BECS has even been acknowledged by its project director who has recently written a letter to the Ministry of Education and Training containing a list of 40 project employees who got illegal promotions during last six years.

 While asked about the illegal promotions in BECS, the minister of State for Education said he was unaware of any such practice but would take strict action if it was proven. “I will take strict action against all those involved in illegal promotions,” he promised.

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