Spec­tre of ‘ghost schools’ in Afghanistan doesn’t seem to spook Canada

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - BY STEPHANIE LEVITZ

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.

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