ISLAMABAD- Education officials in Balochistan have uncovered more than 400 fake teachers but believe the real figure could be in the thousands, a senior UN source told The Nation today.

An investigation is now under way to establish how many non-existent teachers are registered after an inquiry revealed more than 900 ‘ghost schools’ and 234,000 fake students in the province.

Balochistan’s Chief Minister Dr. Malik Baloch had earlier claimed corrupt officials were behind the scandal and said action against them was essential to clean up the education sector.

The scale of the fraud emerged after the government sent inspectors to all schools registered in Balochistan and compared their findings with their own official records.

Their findings were published in a World Bank-funded ‘Real Time School Monitoring System’ report launched on Monday. Officials today however told the Nation the scale of the fraud could be much higher and that an investigation is continuing to establish exactly how many teachers exist only on paper.

One senior UNESCO official, who collaborated with the government on the investigation, said so far 400 had been identified as fake, including 112 in the provincial capital Quetta alone. He said the final figure could reach several thousand.

Qaisar Jamali, UNESCO’s provincial co-ordinator, told The Nation that the Balochistan government is spending billions of rupees on school, which do not exist.

He lauded the Balochistan government’s investigation as the first step towards addressing the fraud.  “At least the Balochistan government has admitted the facts by identifying the anomalies and is now heading towards reforms,” he said.

A complaint cell has also been constituted by the education department where anyone can lodge a complaint regarding teacher absenteeism, lack of facilities and school closures.

Ghost school and teacher frauds could be an even bigger problem in larger provinces where more schools are registered, he said.

According to 2011 government figures, there were about 178,000 government schools in the country with 64000 in Punjab and 47000 in Sindh. Balochistan has 11,500 schools.

Earlier, Sindh government figures had revealed several thousand fake schools in Tharparker district alone, he said.

He urged other provinces to follow Balochistan’s example and  establish the real scale of schools fraud.