Officials from Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission’s (AIHRC) office in Ghor province have reported findings that fraudulent school statistics have allowed commanders of illegal armed groups operating in the area to embezzle millions of Afghanis intended for teachers salaries.
Upon investigation, AIHRC officials say there are dozens of so-called “ghost schools” in Ghor province, meaning, schools that exist on paper and receive funding, but in reality do not exist or are not operating. The funding intended for these schools is said to line the pockets of local powerbrokers and militant leaders.
While local civil society activists and Ghor Provincial Council members have confirmed the accuracy of the AIHRC report, the head of the province’s education department has denounced it.
According to the AIHRC office in Ghor, nearly 70 percent of the province’s schools are closed, and tens of local lawbreakers and illegal armed group commanders receive salaries designated for the schools’ teachers.
“The Independent Human Rights Commission in its investigations and assessments has always reported about the concerning situation of education in Ghor,” AIHRC Ghor office head Jawad Alawi said on Friday. “However, in some districts of the province, almost 70 percent of the schools are not operational. The schools and names of teachers exist in the administrative structure, but there are no schools and teachers on the ground.”
According to Ghor Provincial Council member Abdul Majid Natiqi, tribal elders and Taliban militants alike receive the government funding intended for education in the province. “The majority of schools in the province aren’t operational, but the salaries of the teachers are provided to tribal elders, even the Taliban use the money, which shows that the situation facing education in Ghor is quite distressing,” he told TOLOnews.
“The majority of schools have turned into an income source for the Taliban and illegal armed groups,” civil society advocate Hassan Hakimi said.
Although he did not speak specifically to the allegations of the AIHRC report, acting Ghor governor Syed Anwar Rahmati did call on the Ministry of Education (MoE) to address the issues facing the province’s education system. “We had emphasized that public services must be halted in areas where there is no control by the government, and we hope that the Ministry of Education takes notice of the problem and solves it,” he said.
On the other hand, Sibghatollah Akbari, the head of Ghor’s education department, rejected the AIHRC claims as outlandish, instead estimating the number of non-operational schools in the province at a handful. “I strongly reject the allegations and I don’t understand on what basis the report has been prepared about education in Ghor,” he said.
Illegally armed groups numbering up to 10,000 men are said to be operating in various regions of Ghor province. Their presence has emerged as a major obstacle to development projects in these areas.
The AIHRC report comes just after the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) made its own claims regarding the embezzlement of aid funds by officials at the Ministry of Education. The subject of “ghost schools” has become a hot-button issue for Afghan leaders and donor countries in recent months.
According to SIGAR, as of March 31, 2015, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) had spent 769 million USD to support education in Afghanistan.