Balochistan’s “Ghost Teachers”- An Unsolved Mystery

Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province by area, has long grappled with a severe education crisis. These crises are marked by low literacy rates and a lack of quality schooling facilities. One of the most perplexing and concerning issues among many other challenges is the prevalence of “ghost teachers.” These ghost teachers continue to haunt the educational landscape of Balochistan. That contributes to the deterioration of an already fragile system. 

Ghost teachers are one of the most disheartening problems in Balochistan. There are about 10,000 ghost teachers in Balochistan, and most of them get salaries without performing their duties. Ghost teachers are individuals who are officially employed as teachers in government schools but do not perform their duties, or in many cases, do not even exist. They are appointed on the payroll but remain absent from their posts, leaving students without proper guidance and perpetuating the cycle of poor education in the province.

The problem of ghost teachers in Balochistan is not new, and it has persisted for years, despite several initiatives aimed at its eradication. A significant part of the issue is deeply rooted in corruption, mismanagement, and political interference within the education sector. These elements have allowed ghost teachers to persist, as their existence benefits various stakeholders involved.

Ghost teachers affectthe Ededucation system, How?

The existence of ghost teachers has a profound impact on education in Balochistan. The consequences are far-reaching and detrimental, affecting students, communities, and the province as a whole.

Following are the impacts of ghost teachers on education:

1- Quality of Education: Ghost teachers deprive students of quality education. With understaffed schools, those who do attend are left to cope with overcrowded classrooms and minimal support. This hampers their learning and future prospects.

2- Waste of Resources: The salaries paid to ghost teachers amount to a significant drain on the education budget. These funds could be better utilized for improving infrastructure, providing learning resources, and training existing teachers.

3- High Dropout Rates: Students, discouraged by the substandard learning environment and lack of teacher support, often drop out of school. This situation  further perpetuates the cycle of illiteracy and unemployment.

4- Stunted Development: A poorly educated population hampers the province’s social and economic development. Balochistan’s potential remains largely untapped due to the absence of a skilled and educated workforce.

5- Deepening Inequality: The impact of ghost teachers is felt most acutely in marginalized and rural areas where educational facilities are already limited. This further exacerbates inequality in access to education.

Challenges in Addressing the Conundrum

The issue of ghost teachers in Balochistan is a complex one. It is deeply intertwined with the broader problems facing the province. Several factors that contribute to the challenges in addressing this conundrum are:

1- Political Interference: Political patronage often results in the appointment of ghost teachers. They are used as a means of rewarding loyalists and gaining influence, making it difficult to eliminate their presence.

2- Corruption: The education sector in Balochistan is riddled with corruption. The ghost teachers are just one manifestation of this problem. Eliminating ghost teachers would require addressing systemic corruption.

3- Inadequate Monitoring: The lack of a robust monitoring and evaluation system allows ghost teachers to continue receiving salaries without being held accountable.

4- Lack of Accountability: The culture of impunity further encourages the existence of ghost teachers. Those who are responsible are rarely held accountable for their actions.

5- Socioeconomic Factors: Balochistan’s complex social and economic challenges, including a lack of awareness about the importance of education, exacerbate the problem.

According to a report by the Education Department of Balochistan, out of the total 59,000 registered primary, middle and high school teachers in the province, an overwhelming 15,000 were found to be ghosts. They are siphoning off a whopping sum of 400-500 million rupees from the province’s annual budget.  The report further reiterates that their salaries were suspended immediately.

The reasons for the problem aren’t uncommon. The most common problems are corruption within the educational system,the absence of proper monitoring systsystems, andeaucratic and political inefficiencies. Moreover, unfit candidates securing posts through political channels further aggravates the problem.

One of the female teachers at the Government Girls Middle School highlighted a critical issue,  “The district education officer has visited the school many times. He ensured us that the scarcity of teachers would be soon resolved, however the request seems to have fallen on deaf ears.” She further reveals that “the literacy rate of girls in Balochistan is low. The government should implement rigorous measures and strategies to promote girls’ by appointing female teachers at the primary, secondary  and high school levels.”

In a similar development, the Government Primary Boys School within the same village was dysfunctional after its only teacher retired. The inhabitants of the village recorded a protest and urged the District Education Officer to provide a teacher and conduct a proper investigation on ghost teachers.

Initiative to eradicate the issue

While the challenges are immense, there have been efforts to combat the issue of ghost teachers in Balochistan. These initiatives include:

1- Biometric Verification: The provincial government introduced biometric verification systems to track the attendance of teachers. This technology aims to ensure that teachers physically attend their schools.

2- Accountability Drives: Periodic drives to identify and remove ghost teachers have been undertaken, but their long-term effectiveness is limited without systemic change.

3- Community Engagement: NGOs and community-based organizations have been working to raise awareness about the importance of education and the need to eliminate ghost teachers.

4- Reforms: Policymakers have been pushing for broader education reforms to address the root causes of the problem, including corruption and political interference.

The Balochistan government has recently taken a measure to fill teaching vacancies in the province through a test taken by the Sardar Bahadur Khan (SBK) Women’s University. As per reports, as many as 200,000 male and female candidates appeared for approximately 9,000 posts in the Education Department.  Contrary to the fact, the posts were allegedly said to be on sale—for a claimed eight lakhs for a single post. In response to this bribery scandal, a petition has already been filed with the Balochistan High Court (BHC).

The Way Forward

Addressing the issue of ghost teachers in Balochistan requires a multi-pronged approach. This should involve a commitment to transparency, accountability, and a comprehensive overhaul of the education system.

The Balochistan government needs to devise comprehensive plans to give educational training to teachers on a monthly basis. The government should assign them projects to work on and assess their performance, much like students. This approach would intensify their willingness and augment their competence to work on new challenges in their teaching careers.

The education minister should form a committee in every district to monitor teacher attendance every month. This proactive measure would help to bridge the gap caused by ghost teachers at government schools and our education system would improve overnight.

Resolving the education conundrum related to ghost teachers requires a comprehensive approach. They are not only a bureaucratic anomaly but a great challenge to the province’s youth and future. The provincial and federal governments need to come up with strategies like accountability and recruitment measures. This should also include but not be limited to, instilling meritocracy and transparency in teacher management to get rid of ghost teachers once and for all.

As the world advances, it is possible that the world’s classrooms will sooner or later be occupied by humanoid robots to assist teachers. However, the promises made by the Balochistan government to address issues related to teacher training and the presence of ghost teachers may continue to remain unfulfilled.

The presence of ghost teachers in Balochistan is a persistent challenge that hampers the development of the province and its people. Addressing this conundrum requires collective efforts from the government, civil society, and the community. Eliminating ghost teachers and improving the quality of education in Balochistan is not just a matter of educational reform but a vital step towards the province’s socio-economic development and prosperity. The children of Balochistan deserve better, and it is the responsibility of all stakeholders to ensure that they receive a quality education that can pave the way for a brighter future.