Minister of Education Assadullah Hanif Balkhi said on Sunday a recent study has found that only six million Afghan children are at school – contrary to the 11 million as previously stated by the former government.
Afghan government officials from former president Hamid Karzai’s administration said on a number of occasions that over 11 million Afghan children were attending school, said Balkhi.
This was untrue as only six million children are actually in school, he said. He said the 11 million figure was fabricated by government.
Meanwhile, Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) has called for the prosecution of officials in the previous government who released fabricated statistics.
“On one hand it indicates that there might have been corruption in the ministry of education. Huge amounts of money could have been embezzled through ghost schools and ghost students. On the other hand, they (education ministry officials) gave false information to the international community and portrayed the education sector as one of the more successful projects. The international community also never focused on the topic,” said Sayed Ekram Afzali, chairman of IWA.
According to Balkhi, currently up to six million children are attending 17,000 schools across the country. A total of nine million children are registered but 24 percent of them do not attend school.
“Our statistics are authentic. Eleven million were not enrolled – not even on the database of the previous government. The media was given the wrong statistics,” said Balkhi.
In the meantime, Sediq Patman, a former deputy minister of education said that the leadership of the education ministry exaggerated the statistics about the number of active students, possibly for certain reasons including corruption and misuse of resources.
“They (education ministry leadership) calculated the friends of the students … We told them that these statistics were not credible, that is why we did not approve them. We also informed the president and the ministers about the problem and categorically informed them these statistics were not genuine,” said Patman.
According to Patman, many schools in eleven insecure provinces were closed down in 1386 solar year (2007).
The revival of Afghanistan’s education sector and enrollment of millions of Afghan children, including girls, at schools has often been slated as one of Afghanistan’s biggest achievements in the past 15 years.
However, this issue now raises the question of whether there are ghost schools and ghost students.