News / Africa

1,000 'Ghost' Teachers Erased From Sierra Leone's Government Payroll

Primary school students in Waterloo, Sierra Leone (February, 2010)
Primary school students in Waterloo, Sierra Leone (February, 2010)
Fid Thompson

Sierra Leone's Ministry of Education has deleted the names of 1,000 non-existent teachers from the payroll after discovering schools were claiming salaries and benefits for those teachers.  

Sierra Leone's Ministry of Education has announced that 1,000 "ghost" teachers will be taken off the payroll, freeing up much needed funding for education projects.

Deputy Minister of Education, Algusim Jah, says the ministry discovered schools were taking government salaries for teachers who do not exist.

"People think education is a kind of business," said Algusim Jah. "They will just open schools without the authority of the ministry. They will come to the ministry and with the connivance of some ministry officials they will approve those schools and they will just be paying those teachers."

Jah said another major hurdle for the ministry is to get parents to stop bribing teachers to allow failing children to move up to the next class.

Twenty percent of Sierra Leone's national budget goes to the education sector.  Even so, many teachers here say their salaries are months behind and are threatening strike action ahead of upcoming national exams.

There are over 30,000 teachers on the government payroll, but a report released by the Sierra Leone's teachers' union says up to 2,000 teachers have not received salaries for the past two years.

Last year, after abysmal exam scores nationwide, President Ernest Bai Koroma ordered an inquiry into the education system.

The Education Ministry says they have retrieved over $195,000 from corrupt schools this year.  With fewer "ghost" teachers on the payroll, the government hopes to get real teachers paid and improve the quality of education in Sierra Leone's schools.

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