“Ghost Schools” Threaten Next Generation

‘Ghost schools’ are one symptom of a troubled education system in the developing world. It results in leakage of government funding and exacerbates the high levels of frustration experienced by the overlooked, neglected and disenfranchised youths.

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The Supreme Court defined a ‘ghost school’ as an infrastructure built for education but in reality that function has not been activated yet. It might house animals in its courtyards and classrooms, residences, stables and offices of private or official departments, including the police and paramilitary force. Take the example of Afghanistan’s education system, almost 1 in every 12 schools existed only on paper (Ministry of Education) and half of all primary school children and nearly three-quarters of young girls are not showed up in school (United Nations and the government). In addition, Pakistan government also announced that they have found successfully around 500 ghost schools in their country whereas Nigeria government has discovered 800 ghost schools and over 2000 ghost worker in the education sector. However, ‘ghost teachers’ in these abandoned schools still be paid although they did not do the job. According to Transparency International, this exists mostly in the developing countries including Kenya, Uganda, India, Ghana etc. As a result, some countries take an action immediately to close down the so-called ghost teachers – for example, Pakistan authorities have fired 450 absentee teachers. In other words, these countries are faced with education going down due to the lack of investment and management control from government.

Such practices must be urgently addressed to protect the future of students especially in the poor countries. No effort or resources should be spared to give the future generations the opportunity to rise from poverty, fully equipped to face the challenges of tomorrow.

Political will be the first prerequisite for change. Giving the children the education they deserve will require transforming political  through continued media attention and community involvement. Moreover, addressing ghost schools requires strengthening of accountability, and this includes holding school heads to be accountable for cases that payments are found to be going to non-existent teachers. It might entail depositing salaries directly into the banking accounts of teachers, helping to verify easily who is receiving funds. Another solution will be applied that government have audit team visit each school annually and certify the school’s physical existence, with verification by independent third parties. However, all recommendations above sometimes waste times and effort and cannot completely solve these issues.  Therefore, it has led to the closure of thousands of schools which is finally being addressed through biometrics.

In 2015, World Bank-backed project launched biometric solutions to help local authorities exorcise the ‘ghosts’. As a result, it collects more than 84,000 teacher’s identities (Planet Biometrics). By deploying biometrics in education, it helps to monitor teacher performance on class, in school and allows them to have limited authorization to access different resources and reports accurately the teaching status. Currently, there are many biometric solutions including fingerprints, iris, and voice etc, in which iris is more suitable due to its flexibility and ability to adapt conditions of poor countries.