maliblog.jpg  A School Class in Mali The World Bank 2010 report 'How Quiet Corruption Undermines Africa's Development Efforts' reaches the amazing conclusion that it is teachers and their unions who are undermining efforts to reach the Milennium Development Goal for education The report uses the analaogy of the iceberg - putting what it calls 'loud' corruption at the top of the iceberg while characterising the other nine tenths as 'quiet' corruption. By this it means 'corruption' that is perpetrated by teachers, doctors and other public servants. The breathtaking conclusion is that while it is true that there is some corruption on a grand scale the 'real' problem is the failure of teachers and others to carry out their duties properly.  It is hard to know where to start with this thesis but it is important to put it in its context. This is a document produced by the World Bank - the same World Bank which has overseen the privatisation and selling off of much of the wealth of Africa to foreign corporations - sometimes with the help of corrupt politicians. Post after post on this blog has documented the way in which teachers and children are having to struggle in unsanitary, broken down buildings, often with no furniture and materials and more often than not in huge classes while corporations are stealing the wealth from under their feet - their mineral resources and their land. It is hard for teachers such as myself who have always worked in the so-called 'developed' world to imagine what it must be like to teach in the kinds of conditions experienced by our colleagues in sub-saharan Africa, in many parts of India and so many other countries in the Global South. We have reported on this site the appallingly low level of salaries that teachers are having to survive on. In many cases teachers do not receive enough money to feed themselves - leave alone a family. It is perhaps not surprising then that one of the examples of 'quiet corruption' the report picks up is the fact that a number of teachers have second jobs. It would perhaps be salutary for the authors of the report to try to live on a teacher's salary in for example Benin for a year and see whether it is possible to survive. Another related point which is made much of in the report is the level of teacher absenteeism both in Africa and in India. There is indeed some evidence that teacher absence is higher in these countries but given the depth of poverty, of poor health - particularly the prevalance of AIDS in sub saharan Africa for teachers and their families - the difficulties in rural areas of India in even getting to the school and so on this is not surprising either. Even the report itself acknowledges this (virtually the only time it even nods to the problems faced by teachers in the Global South) when it says:'For example, it is difficult to establish the extent to which teacher absenteeism reflects either a poor working environment or the abuse of public office.'

The report gives a great deal of time to what it calls 'the low level of teacher effort' while in school. Speaking for myself I can scarcely begin to imagine the effort it must take to control - leave alone teach - 100 - 200 children - perhaps sitting on the floor with virtually no teaching materials. Then the report has the effrontery to blame the lack of materials on teachers who are apparently pilfering them. On this site I have often reported the fact that teachers are forced to buy materials for their classes out of their meagre salaries or improvise or beg for them because none are forthcoming from the government. The report points out that:

'Several studies document the positive link between more resources and short-term learning gains in Africa' - I don't think this would come as a surprise to any teacher or indeed any intelligent human being anywhere in the world but to blame the teachers for the lack of resources is breathtaking especially coming from the World Bank.

 The report saves special condemnation for teacher unions and their 'interference'  with education. It says the following: 'In the case of the education system, teachers are a key group of actors that have exerted considerable influence over both the allocation of resources within the system, but more importantly, the rules that define their conditions of service. Much of this power is exercised as a result of the influence wielded by teacher unions or through the direct involvement of current or retired teachers in local and national politics'. The implication that teachers and their unions have no right to 'influence' education and that their influence is malign is again breathtaking in its arrogance. Presumably it is acceptable for the economists and consultants at the World Bank to have an influence on what they call the development of 'human capital' but not for teachers and their unions to have a major say in the full development of the human being - which is how must of us regard education  and to which we have devoted our working lives. In fact it is clear again through many posts on this blog how teachers and their unions are the main fighters for the defence of education and indeed for social justice and human rights.

To read the World Bank report go to: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/AFRICAEXT/Resources/english_essay_adi2010.pdf