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Corruption in the classroom: Stories from around the world

Whether it’s the poorest shut out from school, or research skewed in the interests of lobbyists, the cost of corruption in education is high.

Wherever there are exams on sale or money being siphoned off, there are ordinary people who stand up and speak out. People who refuse to pay a bribe or overlook a backhander.

The fight might not be over, but their acts of courage and determination are helping to make education fairer for all.

Here are some of their stories.

Honduras: The parents who fought back

Tucked away in rural Honduras, Froylan Turcios is a noisy, bustling primary school. It’s hard to imagine that until recently the building was silent – doors bolted, shutters down.

The school closed because there was no-one left to teach the class. According to parents, the education supervisor had illicitly transferred the teacher to cover his own lessons, leaving him free to take on more lucrative work.

It’s a familiar story in Honduras, where as many as one in four teachers are not in class at any given time. Like many other schools, Froylan Turcios could have remained shut indefinitely. But it didn’t.

The reason: a group of parents who refused to be dismissed or intimidated.

Speaking out publicly – and loudly – about the case, the parents of Froylan Turcios forced those in charge to listen to them. Thanks to their determination, the authorities reinstated the teacher, the school re-opened, and their children are back in the classroom. Read their story in full.

Imposter officials, a sting operation and a school library

Meet Simon Eyork – school chair, corruption fighter, and sting operation veteran.

After funding for new buildings and library at his Papua New Guinea primary school never arrived, Simon started pestering the local authorities. At first he was met with silence. Then he received a visit.

Claiming to be education officials, his visitors told him that the funds were ready to be released, on one condition. He needed to pay US$13,000 in “processing fees”.

When he came to our anti-corruption legal advice centre, we helped him contact the police. A plan was formed.

Within days Simon was arriving at a five star restaurant at night, his pocket full of money. At the moment the cash was about to change hands, undercover police officers swooped.

A series of arrests and a press campaign later, Simon’s school has received its funding, the much-needed building work is underway, and he has been celebrated with the Sir Anthony Siaguru Integrity Award by Transparency Papua New Guinea. Read Simon’s full story.

A better future for Zimbabwe’s orphans

Orphaned and living in poverty, Fadzai* did not expect to be told she was too privileged for education support.

One of almost 1 million of HIV/AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe, Fadzai was entitled to government assistance with school fees. Yet after her aunt scraped together the money to buy her a uniform, her application was rejected.

The explanation – if her adopted family could afford to buy her school clothes, they could afford to pay her fees.

Such arbitrary justifications are common, says Danai from our legal advice centre. “Often children from families aligned to local level politicians or officials benefit from these schemes, while those who are most in need of help lose out,” she says.

Fadzai’s aunt was determined that this would not happen to her. She came to us to report the case, and we helped her lodge an official complaint. Within days, she was in a meeting with the authorities. Soon after that, Fadzai was leaving the house for her first day at school.

Now we’re working to ensure all children get a fair deal. Read the full story.

Fiji’s missing kindergarten

Imagine paying US$9,000 for a place in a kindergarten only to discover that it didn’t exist. This is what happened in Fiji. Find out what happened next.

GCR Education cover
Find out more about corruption in education

From ghost schools to undue corporate influence – our Global Corruption Report on Education brings together more than 70 experts from over 50 countries to explore the many faces of corruption in education, and assess different options for tackling the problem.

Explore the Global Corruption Report: Education, from schools to higher education to solutions, using our interactive presentation of the report.

*Name has been changed

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