Corruption in schools takes place in a variety of ways. It can begin with the very building blocks of schools, where local officials provide contracts for school construction to friends, usually with inflated costs. Corrupt school officials tasked with buying goods and services for the school may give the order to the company with the lowest quality, but the highest bribe. Sometimes the services that are meant to be provided never appear at all, often unbeknownst to students. For example, through so-called “ghost schools”, corrupt administrators may keep non-existent schools on the books in order to receive unwarranted salaries. On a larger scale, corrupt public and school officials may direct huge sums of money meant to go to schools – in order to provide children with free education – into their own pockets.
Every child has a right to access free primary education. The practice of school employees illegally demanding registration fees takes this away, hitting the poor the hardest. When students do enter the classroom, they are often taught by unqualified teachers, who purchase fake diplomas, undermining students’ right to quality education.
In the absence of proper oversight, school personnel and teachers may also engage in corrupt acts. In some cases, corruption has already occurred through their recruitment, if, for example, they only received the job as a favour from a relative linked to the school, and not on merit.
Teachers are tasked with a hugely important responsibility of transmitting knowledge to children and helping shape their consciousness. Corruption occurs where this responsibility is abused for private gain. This can happen, for example, where teachers offer private, fee-charging tuition to their students, which negatively affects those unable to pay for these extra lessons. This abuse of entrusted power can also take the form of sexual violence perpetrated against students.
Education is a fundamental human right. All around the globe it is seen as the key to a better future, life with dignity and a sustainable livelihood. Funding is critical to ensure that education achieves these ends. But resources alone are not sufficient. Corruption and mismanagement can squander funds before schools ever see them. Integrated mechanisms are needed to stop these losses before they start.