Pakistan authorities have stopped funding hundreds of educational institutions that existed only on paper and have fired 450 absentee teachers in a mission to close down the so-called ghost schools.
Baloch officials vowed to launch a crackdown on the common practice in the southwestern province of Balochistan late on Tuesday.
Raza Muhammed Khan Barrech, education adviser to the chief minister in Balochistan, told Al Jazeera that many teachers who were drawing salaries without doing the job had been fired in the process.
"We have been investigating and closing down such schools for the past year," he said. "The only way to completely shut them down is to not provide funds to those schools."
"There were about 400 to 500 ghost schools in the region that existed only on paper. And about 450 teachers who were drawing salaries. Half of the schools were abandoned as students never showed up."
Related: Teachers absent from Pakistan's 'ghost schools'
Barrech said the provincial government is in the process of implementing article 25-a of the constitution, which says the state "shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to 16 years in such manner as may be determined by law".
He also revealed that the 'ghost students' had been 'enrolled' by education officials in the region and teachers in the past to show a maximum number of schools to get monetary benefits.
Late last year, a website was launched to identify ghost schools called the Education Management Information System (EMIS), which helps to ensure the presence of teachers in schools and improve the quality of education in the province.
Improvements in education sector
According to Roshan Bharucha, a former senator and a social worker in Balochistan, plans to improve education in the region were under way.
"Many children drop out of schools because of lack of facilities and checks and balances in the education system. However, this seems to be changing," she said.
"The 'ghost school' phenomenon is not just here in Balochistan but also in many other rural areas of Pakistan. This has to be eradicated because those funds can be utilised on improving education."
Related: In Pictures: Pakistan education woes
Pakistan's education rate is still relatively low. As per the Education for All 2015 report, about one-third of primary school age children are out of school, while 42 percent of the population aged 10 and above is illiterate.
At the national level, about two-thirds of women aged 15 and over cannot read and write, and 35 percent of girls remain out of school.
"It is estimated that more than 6.7 million children are out of school, and the majority of them [62 percent] are girls," the report says.
UNESCO and Pakistan recently launched the Girls' Right to Education programme for Pakistan worth $7m.
The programme aims to enrol 50,000 more girls in primary schools in remote areas over the next three years.
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