India state sacks over 1,000 teachers over fake degrees

PATNA (AFP) - India's Bihar state has sacked 1,100 school teachers in the last five years for faking their own education qualifications, an official said Tuesday.

Bihar's government has launched an investigation into the eastern state's primary and secondary teachers to check the authenticity of their degrees, the official said.

"We have removed about 1,100 school teachers in last five years in the state for using forged degrees to get jobs," senior state education official R.S. Singh told AFP.

"Our investigation is on to verify degrees of more school teachers. It is a continuous process after recruitment of teachers," Singh said.

The sackings underscore the immense problems facing the school system in India where teachers are underpaid and overworked, and tens of millions of children struggle to receive an adequate education.

The investigation was launched in the wake of a massive recruitment drive by the government in Bihar, one of India's most impoverished and underdeveloped states, that started in 2006 in a bid to improve its schools.

The recruitment drive saw almost 250,000 people given teaching, assistant teaching and other jobs, but ultimately led to complaints about incompetence, officials told AFP.

Several officials said recruited teachers were required to have a graduate degree, but verification of their certificates only started after their appointment.

Bihar's education minister Brishen Patel told AFP the verification process has now been stepped up.

"I have already directed concerned officials to speed up to verify degrees of all 250,000 contractual school teachers," Patel told AFP.

Singh said his education department has filed complaints with police against some of those teachers sacked, along with village council heads who had originally helped with the recruitment process.

Bihar, with a population of almost 100 million, has some of the poorest literacy rates in India.

Last year 23 children died after eating a free lunch contaminated with pesticide at an impoverished village school in the state.

Standards of education in rural India have declined almost every year since 2009 despite huge government investment, a survey by Indian education research group Pratham has found.

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