Islam Ali could possibly have been India's youngest teacher in a government school but for a 'dead' giveaway. He passed his high school leaving certificate exam (HSLC) - requisite for the job of an elementary school teacher - in 2002, four years after he was appointed.
Ali, aged 11 when he was 'appointed' an elementary school teacher, lost his job last week at 18. He was among 453 teachers of various elementary schools in Nalbari district sacked after a probe panel found their appointments illegal. All of them had joined service last year and received their salaries with "arrears" since their fake appointment papers were dated 1999.
Ali's case is marginally better. District elementary education officer Sarat Sarma, the person who purportedly signed his appointment letter, was alive when he joined duty. Most of the fake teachers across the district were "appointed" by Sarma posthumously.
Discrepancies in appointments have been found in Middle English schools too, where the minimum qualification for assistant teachers is a higher secondary degree. But Ramala Das was assigned a job at Gandhibari Girls' ME School despite having cleared the HSLC exam. She was among 11 who were appointed at the school on the same day - December 4, 1999 - against a single vacant post.
The skeletons have been tumbling out of the Education Department cupboard - the government does not know how many schools it runs nor is it aware of the number of teachers on its payroll - after the State Department of Elementary Education (DEE) and the police busted the racket last week. Five persons, including the additional deputy commissioner of Cachar in southern Assam, were arrested in this connection.
The arrests and sacking of fake teachers followed a probe against a cartel of officers and employees of various departments who had been 'recruiting' teachers and issuing appointment letters by "means of forgery, manipulation, fabrication, tampering and even showing appointees on transfer".
The cartel had used a local printing press to print appointment letters and issue them to job seekers with either political connections or money.