Hayatollah is supposed to be teaching history and geography for grades six to nine at the Kahrezak Secondary School, located 60 kilometres from Chaghcharan, the provincial centre of Ghor province in central Afghanistan .
But when asked to identify Ahmad Shah Durrani, the first king of Afghanistan, the 22-year-old teacher replied with a smile that he did not know who he was. Asked to name the most famous rivers in Afghanistan, he said he did not know the name of any of them except the river Ghor.
Hayatollah said he was sent to Kahrezak two years ago by the provincial education department, but found out early on that the other teachers at the school did not possess even basic literacy skills.
He went back to Chaghcharan and never returned to the school. Even so, he has been receiving his monthly salary for the past two years.
“The cashier brings my salary to my door every month,” he said.
An investigation by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting indicates that at least 280 million afghanis, approximately 5.8 million US dollars, from the education ministry’s budget for Ghor province has been spent to little effect, and in some cases handed over to local power-brokers.
Only 20 per cent of the provincial education budget goes to staff who turn up and teach in the schools. The rest is either paid to absentee teachers, or appropriated in their name by education and law-enforcement personnel. To date, no government agency has looked into reports of embezzlement of this kind.
An IWPR survey indicates that of the 4,000 teachers currently on the payroll in Ghor, perhaps 3,200 have no qualifications – some cannot read and write.
IWPR compiled a list showing that 80 per cent of the 740 schools in the province are not operating at all, even though the education department still pays salaries to the teachers.
As a result of this situation, pupils are promoted from one class to the next, year after year, without learning a thing, according to both government officials and teachers who admit they have not set foot in a classroom for many months.