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Pay cheques to start making their way to ‘ghost’ teachers

Inquiry ordered to reinvestigate cases of over 20,000 illegal, absentee teachers. PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: The haunting politics of ghost teachers appears to be resurfacing as a reinvestigation has been ordered into the cases of over 20,000 illegal and absentee appointments.

In the last three years, the education department had made significant headway into controlling the problem of ghost teachers. It stopped salaries to over 20,000 such appointees when a 2013 inquiry revealed massive irregularities in their appointment procedure. With the re-inquiry into these cases, there are fears that these teachers will be given ‘clean chits’.

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“Dozens of teachers have already been cleared from inquiries because of their political influence,” said an education department official, on the condition of anonymity. “An order to release their salaries, which were stopped three years ago, has been issued.” Due to political pressure from elected representatives, the government has finally bowed down to pressure ahead of the upcoming general elections in 2018, he added. “The additional secretary of the department has been asked to conduct a re-inquiry and submit a report within three months,” said a senior education officer.

Apparition process

When these teachers were appointed in 2012, the induction process bypassed all rules, even the crucial element of conducting interviews and tests. A chief minister inspection team inquired into the matter and several different committees were formed that held the district education departments responsible. The then education secretary Dr Fazlullah Pechuho refused to hear requests by other politicians and ordered a complete stop on salaries for such employees.

“The people who were lobbying against Dr Pechuho succeeded in transferring him because he, being an influential bureaucrat, was a stumbling block in their way,” said a senior officer in the Sindh government. “Soon after his transfer, the government principally decided to bring these teachers back in the education department.”

Pleading innocence

Even education directors and deputy directors, such as Mumtaz Ali Shaikh, Shamsuddin Dal, Attaullah Bhutto, Jabar Dayo, Bashir Abbasi, who were suspended for giving illegal jobs, have approached the government to reconsider the decision against them. According to official figures, Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Larkana, Matiari and Kamber Shahdadkot districts were most notorious in these cases as 70% of the appointments were irregular.

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Dal, one of the directors dismissed after the report, denied the charges against him. “No one heard us. We are not involved in any wrongdoing,” he said.
A few weeks ago, more than a dozen such teachers belonging to Larkana division protested in front of Karachi Press club and Sindh Assembly demanding a release of their salaries. “”We got the offer letters because the local agents received up to Rs500,000 in 2012,” said a teacher, Ibrahim. “We hardly drew even a month’s salary as our identity cards in the treasury branch have been blocked on Pechuho’s orders,” he said.

Justifying his appointment another teacher said, “What is wrong if we got the offer letter after paying bribes? Nothing is done without [bribes].”
Clean chit?

Meanwhile, salaries to around 270 teachers have resumed, said education secretary Jamal Mustafa Syed. Their salaries were discontinued because these teachers were marked absent when the biometric system monitored their attendance, he explained.

“These teachers are now attending their schools regularly,” he said, adding that the education department will continue to work for the betterment of regular teachers yet take strict action against teachers will poor attendance.

A few days ago, Education Minister Jam Mahtab Dahar confirmed that they will start an inquiry, conduct interviews and resume the jobs of those teachers who qualify the exam. “More than 10,000 such teachers have been inducted in Karachi,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2017.

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