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20 Apr 2002

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Ghost; noun (a) image of a dead person which appears. Cambodia has more than its fair share of ghosts, many of them from the horrific period under the Khmer Rouge when an estimated 25% of the population died. But there are other ghosts too, of a more worldly nature. There are ghost teachers in the schools and ghost soldiers in the army, living people whose names appear in the accounts but who never show in person. In fact, there are ghosts everywhere! It all helps to line the pockets of "those at the top", allowing poorly paid bosses to drive around in nice cars and send their kids overseas to study. Of course it also ensures that the people who actually do the work are so badly paid that they have to take on second and third jobs, undermining efficiency and loyalty in their primary occupation. We sometimes criticise individual teachers when they talk about how they can use their new computer skills to get a job with an NGO, but who can blame them when they earn just $20 a month for teaching in a government school? It's time to call in the exorcist...