The Sindh education department has suspended 77 ghost teachers posted in Khairpur district, the hometown of chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah. The department has also issued them final show-cause notices to clear their names otherwise they will be dismissed from service.
Khairpur district elementary education officer Liaquat Ali Khaskheli ordered them to report to his office immediately, where they would be asked to explain their absence from duty and disciplinary action will be taken against them. The issued order further said that the suspended teachers will be given their salaries in line with regulations if they showed up as asked.
Those suspended include six junior school teachers, 66 primary school teachers, four high school teachers and a naib qasid. Eighteen of these are female teachers. They belong to various schools in the Kingri, Kot Diji, Thari Mir Wah, Gambat and Nara talukas, though the education department reportedly does not know where exactly 35 of these teachers were posted.
Education secretary Dr Fazlullah Pechuho said: “Around 5,700 schools are closed in Sindh and the number of ghost teachers is manifold. We have started a campaign of issuing show-cause notices to them before taking strict action,” he said. Pechuho added that action will not be confined to Khairpur Mir and that ghost teachers from all districts will be taken to task.
Speaking about the campaign on social media, he said, “It will bring about positive change. We are re-confirming the reports pouring in before taking action,” he said, adding that teachers’ unions and some political leaders were pressing him not to take action against the ghost teachers. “I will prefer to resign but will not give in to their demands,” he said.
On the other hand, independent sources in the education department said that the number of ghost schools stands at 7,000, where around 25,000 to 30,000 teachers are employed. Among these are 700 local journalists. “We have compiled a list of journalists working in the education department. Five hundred are primary teachers and the rest are secondary school teachers and lecturers,” said an official.
A retired education department official, requesting anonymity, said that it had become a common practice for teachers to get jobs through political influence and then run private tuition centres or do other work instead of performing their duties, while bribing clerks to cover for them.
“This [suspension] has only taken place in order to pacify the higher-ups,” he said. “It is not a punishment, because they still get their full salary during the suspension period.” He further revealed that he himself had used to accept bribes from over a dozen ghost teachers while he was posted in Ghotki district.
Although The Express Tribune tried to contact Sukkur schools education director Zainab Mangi, she was not available for comment either on phone or at her office.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2014.