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QUETTA: The provincial government will help finance and set up 160 centres under the Alternative Learning Pathway (ALP) model to provide good quality alternative education to over 8,000 children and adolescents in Balochistan.

These centres will be set up by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and will be led by the department of secondary education.

The ALP centres will give out-of-school children (OOSC), between nine and 16 years of age, the opportunity to learn and be “mainstreamed” into a regular education system.

Japan’s support for alternative education in Balochistan is part of a recently signed agreement with Unicef according to which $3.5 million have been granted for establishing 400 ALP centres in three provinces. More than 15,000 children and adolescents across the country will benefit from these centres.

According to the secondary education sec­retary Noorul Haq Baloch, around one million children in the province are out of school and the real challenge is to give them access to quality education. He appreciated efforts made by Unicef and the JICA for giving these children the chance to “catch up and complete their basic education”.“The gover­nment of Balochistan is also trying to mainstream the ALP initiative and allocate a budget particularly for the ALP to help provide access to OOSC,” he said, adding they looked forward to strengthening Balo­ch­­istan’s formal education system with this coll­aboration and contribute to the province’s social and economic development.

“The JICA has consistently prioritised non-formal education (NFE) in its ongoing technical assistance to Pakistan since 2004. It has been implementing the Advance Quality Alternative Learning (AQAL) project which aims to strengthen NFE delivery systems in Balochistan and Sindh,” said Abid Gill, the deputy chief adviser of the AQAL, on Thursday.

“Now, we are trying to further strengthen our commitment to the NFE in collaboration with Unicef to ensure the right to education to OOSC,” he said, adding that JICA expected the Balochistan government to step forward and expand the NFE system as a strategy to ensure right to education to OOSC under article 25A.

Unicef’s Chief of Field Office David Lgulu said that this reflected the provincial government’s level of commitment and support of the Japanese government and Unicef in their efforts to provide quality education to the children of Balochistan. “Unicef’s support to the Balochistan education department is multidimensional with the ALP being the catalyst to accelerate enrolment of OOSC. Capitalising on the excellent results so far, Unicef will expand the outreach of this model,” he added.

Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2018