Spectre of ‘ghost schools’ in Afghanistan doesn’t seem to spook Canada
Canadian officials are shrugging off U.S. concerns that school enrolment numbers in Afghanistan — one of the most tangible indicators of the impact of millions in aid spending — may have been inflated or falsified outright.
The American agency that oversees Afghan aid spending ordered a review of enrolment data after Afghanistan’s education minister implied the numbers are misleading and that money may have been spent on so-called “ghost schools” that don’t even exist.
“These allegations suggest that U.S. and other donors may have paid for schools that students do not attend and for the salaries of teachers who do not teach,” John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, wrote in a letter to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Canadian politicians and bureaucrats routinely cite a huge spike in enrolment as proof that at least $227 million in education spending in Afghanistan, including the construction of dozens of new schools, has made a difference.
When asked what Canada was doing to verify the statistics it uses, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs initially said while they were aware Afghan officials sometimes inflate numbers in the media, Canada takes a different approach.
“(Foreign Affairs) is conservative when reporting Afghan school enrolment figures from 2013 which state that more than 8.4 million Afghan children, almost 39 per cent of whom are girls, are enrolled in formal and communitybased schools,” Francois Lasalle said in an email.
“This is a significant increase from only one million boys enrolled in formal schools in 2001.”
Those figures, Lasalle said, were vetted and reported on by the Afghan Ministry of Education Management Information System.