Ghost Teachers In Balochistan: An Unsolved Conundrum

Ghost teachers continue to imperil educational outcomes at public institutions across Balochistan, and systemic reforms from the government are now long overdue.

Ghost Teachers In Balochistan: An Unsolved Conundrum

Turbat, Kech: At the age of 35, Javed Baloch, a primary school teacher at the Government Primary School Ghether, District Suhrab, sets out from his home each day at 8 in the morning, driven not by the salary that comes with being a government teacher, but by the profound sense of respect he holds for the profession.

“Respect is what matters to the teachers.” He tells me before I put a question forward. “In my whole career, Teacher’s Day was the only day when I was proud of the profession. The love and appreciation that you receive from the students knows no bounds.”

Javed Baloch, a chaddar-clad man with brown wavy hair and hazel-colored eyes, discloses that he is the only teacher running the entire school. The school has a single classroom with no boundary wall, or potable water, toilets and other basic amenities, but it is the lack of teachers that compounds his miseries.

“I am the only teacher running the school, even though there are two others drawing their salaries without visiting,” I inquire about their names, but he hesitates, fearing potential repercussions that could jeopardize his job.

The grief in Baloch’s tone is obvious since the proliferation of ghost teachers in the province has far-reaching consequences for hundreds of thousands of students. Ghost teachers exacerbate the educational gap, because the schools grapple with a shortage of staff members and overcrowded classrooms, ultimately resulting in a dilapidated education system with poor learning outcomes.

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 teachers were found to be ghosts, 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.

An official from the Education Department in district Gwadar, on conditions of anonymity, sheds light on the underlying causes, “the reasons for the problem aren’t uncommon. Corruption within the education system, absence of proper monitoring systems, bureaucratic and political inefficiencies and unfit candidates securing posts through political channels are the various reasons that further aggravates the problem.”

Sammi Sarwar, 34, another female teacher at the Government Girls Middle School, Kolahoo, Tehsil Tump, district Kech highlights a critical issue – “the staggering shortage of enough female teachers, keeping in mind the strength of the classes.”

“The district education officer has visited the school many times. He has also ensured us that the dearth of the teachers would be soon resolved, however the request seems to have fallen on deaf ears.” She further reveals that “given that the literacy rate of girls in Balochistan is low, the government ought to implement rigorous measures and strategies to promote girls’ by appointing female teachers at the primary, secondary  and high school levels.”

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 teachers were found to be ghosts, siphoning off a whopping sum of 400-500 million rupees from the province's annual budget. 

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

“The part of the village I hail from has this one school with no proper boundary wall, clean drinking water or adequate furniture, but these problems pale in comparison to having no teachers at the school,” says Liaquat Hammal, 22, a Bachelor of Arts (BA) graduate from the Government Atta Shad Degree College Turbat in the area.

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 as 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 was filed by Bayazid Karoti in the Balochistan High Court (BHC), who is a journalist running an online portal called Choti Chiriya often depicting the gloomy picture of Balochistan.

As a result, a division bench of the court consisting of Mr. Justice Iqbal Ahmed Kasi and Mr. Justice Kamran Malakhail asked candidates to submit sworn statements about bribery issues. The stay is yet to be lifted.

The Government Middle School at Thoothak, District Khuzdar also confronts a plethora of problems including an acute shortage of teachers. “We need to impress upon ghost teachers that their absenteeism not merely devastates the lives of the students in their classrooms, but potentially leads to widespread illiteracy in the coming generations,” Chakar Zehri tells.

Another factor that adds to incompetent teaching is the absence of effective mechanisms to properly teach and train them. If teachers are teaching students, who is to teach the teachers.

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

“The education minister needs to form a committee in every district to monitor teacher attendance every month,” Ajmal Nousherwani, a student in the Education Department at a Balochistan varsity suggests. “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 youths and future. The provincial and federal governments need to come up with strategies like accountability and recruitment measures, including but not 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 yet unfulfilled.

The writer is a Turbat based writer.