Teachers play truant in India's schools

BAGHPAT - On any given day in a state primary school in India, up to one in four teachers is missing. The cost for a country that sees its young population as its ticket to superpower status is huge.

In the poor and agricultural district of Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh, a state that is home to nearly 200 million people, or one in six Indians, absences afflict pupils and fellow teachers alike.

One frustrated headmistress showed AFP the register for her staff: two out of seven full-time teachers are routinely away. One has been seen only a handful of times in 2012 due to back-to-back medical and childcare leave.

"There are so many teachers who don't want to work," she complained in her simple and dimly lit office, asking not to be named because of the sensitive nature of the information she was sharing.

"The government provides books, uniforms and midday meals to all students for free. They are spending so much, but if teachers are not dedicated then all the money is just being wasted."

In other schools dotted around the area, about a two-hour drive from New Delhi, teacher shortages due to absences or under-recruitment mean class sizes are often double the recommended level of 30.

A recent scandal in the area saw 77 teachers sacked after an investigation by a local training college revealed they had forged their own school certificates.

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