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IWPR, February 24, 2012

Millions spent on no-show teachers in Afghanistan

But despite not having stepped in a classroom for the past two years, he continues to receive his monthly teaching salary

By Mohammad Hassan

Hakimi Hayatollah is supposed to be teaching history and geography to students at the Kahrezak secondary school in Ghor province in central Afghanistan.

But there's a problem: Hayatollah knows neither Afghan history nor geography. He's stumped when asked to identify Ahmad Shah Durrani, the first king of Afghanistan. The only major river in the country the 22-year-old can name is one that runs through Ghor province, from which it takes its name.

But Hayatollah found that his lack of knowledge hardly made him unique among faculty at Kahrezak secondary. In fact, many of his fellow teachers could neither read nor write.

Hayatollah decided to abandon his teaching career and returned to the provincial capital of Cheghcheran. But despite not having stepped in a classroom for the past two years, he continues to receive his monthly teaching salary.

"The cashier brings my salary to my doorstep every month," Hayatollah said.

Schools in Badakhshan in bad condition
A school in Badakshan. Low standards of schools are a big problem in Afghanistan, not given any importance. (Photo: RAWA.org)
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An investigation by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting found that only 20 percent of $5.8 million budgeted each year for teachers' salaries in Ghor province actually goes to teachers in classrooms. The rest goes either to local security personnel and education officials who receive the monthly salaries in the name of absentee teachers or to teachers like Hayatollah who no longer instruct students.

Approximately 4,000 individuals in Ghor province currently receive monthly salaries as teachers from the government. But the IWPR investigation found that perhaps as many as 3,200 of them are not teachers and cannot read or write. These individuals are mostly residents of the villages near the schools.

And while 80 percent of the 740 schools in the province are closed and inactive, the provincial education department still pays salaries to the teachers of these schools on a monthly basis.

The government has long known about the problem. A published report in October 2010 quoted Mohammad Safdar Khodayar, a member of the audit team for the Ghor education department, saying his staff's work showed that 90 percent of the schools in the provincial capital of Cheghcheran were closed, but that teachers were being paid monthly. He called the practice national treason, blaming corruption within the Ghor education department.

Ahmad Tawab, the current director of education in Ghor province, has been under arrest since October, accused of demanding a $4,000 payment from a UNESCO official.

Mohammad Ibrahim Khalil, director of monitoring for the education ministry in Kabul, throws up his hands in frustration at the scope of corruption.

Khalil said that he has sent more than 200 official letters to the Ghor department of education, complaining about closed schools and absent teachers receiving salaries. "I'm sure all those letters have been used in the winter to light the stove in the education minister's office," he joked. He did succeed in getting 10 no-show teachers sacked, only to have five of them reinstated by the currently incarcerated director of education.

Mohammad Yusof Maslak Fahm, who heads the department that pays teachers' salaries in Ghor, says it's not his department's job to monitor the education system.

"We are responsible for paying the teachers' salaries," he said. "We are not responsible for asking whether the teachers are present or absent." In fact, everyone seems to be aware that millions of dollars are being paid each month to no-show teachers. No one, however, seemed willing to assume responsibility.

Khatibi, a spokesman for Ghor's provincial governor, Abdullah Hawaid, acknowledged, "There are no teachers, no students, no books and no education or studying in these schools." He added that the governor is aware of the massive corruption, bribery and embezzlement in the education department.

Mohammad Hassan Hakimi is a reporter in Afghanistan who writes for The Institute for War & Peace Reporting, a nonprofit organization that trains journalists in areas of conflict. Readers may write to the author at the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 48 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8LT, U.K.; Web site: www.iwpr.net. For information about IWPR's funding, please go to http://www.iwpr.net/index.pl?top-supporters.html.

Category: Education - Views: 9382