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The ghost schools of Pakistan

Significant funding — much of it US money — goes toward non-existent education provided by non-existent schools.

When repeated requests to government representatives for additional money to hire the security necessary to prevent the nightly break-ins went unheeded, the situation became untenable, the wing was emptied and students were absorbed into other classes.

With all attempts at saving the primary wing forgotten, addicts and gangsters have claimed the building as their own, arriving like clockwork every evening to build fires where desks once sat and to add to the violent mural of graffiti that now marches across the soiled whitewashed walls.

Freshly discarded needles and rolled newspaper straws used for snorting drugs strewn across the floor are left as evidence of the school’s new inhabitants.

Whether this primary school continues to exist on paper as a functional school somewhere in the labyrinthine government bureaucracy is hard to determine, but community members hold a cynical suspicion that it does.

“Government schools in Lyari are like this” said Haji Noon Baloch, head of a community organization here, as he wanders through the dejected compound gesturing not only to the haunted classrooms of the primary wing but also to the six other troubled government schools squeezed into the courtyard, “It is all about bread and water for the politicians,” he continued, invoking an Urdu phrase for corruption.

A sense of doom permeates the remaining classrooms that cling to fringes of functionality throughout the compound. Outside of one primary classroom, young children loiter in the searing midday sun waiting to see if their government appointed teachers will arrive, complaining that classes are habitually late and that teacher absenteeism is common.

In a classroom across the courtyard, three despondent teenagers sit around a few tatty books. Evidence of the nightly invasions is prevalent here too as ceiling fans and metal grates have been ripped out and the original lock on the classroom door broken apart.

“Most of the students haven’t been coming because there are no fans and it’s been hot,” said Munawar Ali Lasi, a 16-year-old ninth grader with the faint smudge of mustache above his scrolling upper lip. “When the children come they go into the washroom and there’s no water.”

Lasi said that unlike other teachers here, his are committed to education, but that while he shows up every day, most of his classmates have become too discouraged to attend regularly.