Recent statistics from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) may prove that achievement touted by the US Government to rebuild schools in Afghanistan using taxpayer dollars could have been inflated.
School enrollment statistics provided by USAID show an increase from 900,000 in 2002 to 8 million in 2013. However, those figures were provided by the Afghan Ministry of Education, which could have made up the data. Claims have been made by the new government under Ashraf Ghani that the Karzai administration lied about the number of schools in order to gain additional funding.
“The Ministers reported that there are no active schools in insecure parts of the country, and that former officials doctored statistics, embezzled money, and interfered with university entrance exams,” Inspector General John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), wrote. “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.”
Although Sopko did not go into detail concerning exactly how the figures were exaggerated, he did say that the Afghan education system regularly reports students as absent for three years before officially taking them off the enrollment list. He went on to say that last year 1.55 million students were counted as “absent” in the country, reports Greg Myre for NPR.
“The [education] ministers reported that there are no active schools in insecure parts of the country, and that former officials doctored statistics, embezzled money, and interfered with university entrance exams,” Sopko wrote.
SIGAR claims that of the $100 billion spent on rebuilding Afghanistan, USAID has spent $769 million on educational support as of March 31, 2015. In his letter, Sopko wondered how much money was put toward teachers, schools and administrators who do not exist, writes Colby Itkowitz for The Washington Post.
USAID has routinely used the education system in Afghanistan as proof of progress being made in the country. However, Sopko contends that the US relies too heavily on Afghan officials for data, and instead needs to be able to confirm such figures independently.
Larry Sampler, USAID’s assistant administrator in the office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs, said it is being looked into.
“USAID takes seriously any allegations of manipulated or falsified data,” Sampler said. “We have asked the Ministry of Education for more information regarding the Minister’s statement. Like all USAID projects in Afghanistan, USAID-implemented education projects adhere to the Agency’s strict practices for monitoring their performance and success.”