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Geopolitics

Pakistan's Ghost Schools, Rusting Symbols Of A Nation's Lost Potential

Beyond the Taliban's attack against Malala, there is also widespread corruption and poor state monitoring that leads to many Pakistani schools being simply abandoned buildings.

Waiting for teachers to arrive in Pakistan's ghost schools
Waiting for teachers to arrive in Pakistan's ghost schools
Naeem Sahoutara and Shadi Khan Saif

KARACHI — It’s 8 in the morning on a normal day at a local school in the Ghagar region on the outkirts of Karachi, Pakistan. But, there are no students here — and no teachers.
The classrooms are damaged, and there are no colorful drawings inside.

Village resident Muhammad Azeem Marri, 40, lives just next to the school, but his three school-age children are missing out on an education. “The school building has been there for the last 14 years,” he says. “But the teachers never come. There are no classes. The teachers are being paid, but the students are not getting taught.”

According to official figures released last year, there are about 25,000 so-called "ghost teachers" in Pakistan. And the majority of them are in Sindh province.

Half a kilometer away, there's another government school. It’s dirty, with broken chairs and no benches for the children.

In fact, it is just one of 35 non-operating schools in this locality alone, which is home to 60,000 people.

Iqbal Gabol also lives close to the school, and his three children would begin going to school in the coming years were it open. “Not a single teacher has been appointed here since the school was built in 2005,” he says. “There’s no electricity. The building is of no use. We’ve requested many times to the chief minister, the education minister, even the president to make it functional, but nothing has happened.”

There are hundreds of thousands of government-established schools all over the country that are not functioning, either because of widespread corruption or the lack of an effective monitoring system.

Little 8-year-old Maria Ali from this village had to stop her studies in grade three. “I want to become a teacher so I can teach others,” she says. “But I can’t go to school because we don’t have one here. The teachers at the school where I used to go got fired, and no new teachers were appointed.”

Earlier this year the Pakistan Supreme Court ordered a countrywide inspection of the government-run schools to find out how many are running.

Here in the southern Sindh Province, the inspection found that about 20 percent of the government schools for both girls and boys are either non-functional or do not exist at all.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Dead And Disappeared: A Village Emerges From 72 Days Of Russian Occupation

Russian forces have been pushed out of the area around Kharkiv. Villages that were occupied for two months are free once more — but utterly destroyed. And thousands of people have disappeared without a trace.

Kharkiv and the surrounding villages faced weeks of constant Russian shelling.

Alfred Hackensberger

TSYKRUNY — Andriy Kluchikov uses a walking stick, but is otherwise fairly sprightly for a 94-year-old. Under his black wool hat, Kluchikov seems fearless as he surveys his hometown in northeastern Ukraine. “The missiles don't scare me,” he says with a smile. “I have slept in my own bed every night and never went down into the basement.”

As for the two-meter-wide bomb crater that has appeared in his garden, between the vegetable patch and the greenhouse with its shattered plastic roof, Kluchikov almost seems proud. “No one can intimidate me,” he says. “Not even the Russians.”

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In the early days of the war, in February, Russian artillery almost completely destroyed this village of Tsyrkuny, near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city. Only a few houses, including his own, were left undamaged. Shortly afterwards, Russian troops marched into the village and occupied it for 72 days. It was not until early this week that the Ukrainian army was able to liberate Tsyrkuny and many other areas to the north of the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

It is the Ukrainians’ most successful counter-offensive so far. They are thought to have pushed the invading troops back almost to the Russian border. “The offensive is gaining momentum,” according to the independent American thinktank Institute for the Study of War. “It has forced Russian troops on the defensive and has successfully alleviated artillery pressure on Kharkiv City.”

In the modern city of Kharkiv, home to around 1.5 million residents, the relief has been palpable over the last few days. Restaurants and cafes have reopened. People are walking and riding bikes in the parks, and couples are strolling hand in hand, enjoying the warm spring sunshine. You can still hear the artillery, but it is now many miles away.

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