A ceremony was held in Quetta on Friday to celebrate the passing-out of 1,400 young students, who completed their primary education under an accelerated learning programme (ALP) launched by the Balochistan government in collaboration with Unicef.
The programme seeks to provide primary education to out-of-school children within three years — as opposed to the usual six years — to overcome the age gap created because of the school years missed by the children and adolescents.
"Nearly 1.1 million children are currently out of schools in Balochistan," Palvasha Jalalzai, the provincial education chief of Unicef, told DawnNewsTV. However, Balochistan National Party's central leader Sanaullah Baloch put the alarming figure of such children at more than 2m.
According to Jalalzai, the main objective behind the launch of ALP was to make sure the precious time of overage children did not get wasted.
A particularly worrying aspect of the current state-of-affairs is that most of the out-of-school children in Balochistan are girls. In fact, an estimated 62 per cent of girls aged between five and 16 are deprived of education in the province, according to Balochistan education secretary Noorul Haq Baloch.
The situation isn't significantly better for male children either, with 34pc of boys out of schools.
"We have only one primary school in an area of 33 square kilometres in Balochistan," Sanaullah Baloch, the BNP leader and MPA, revealed. In comparison, he said, there was one primary school every 4 sq km in Punjab, 2.8 sq km in Sindh and 3.8 sq km in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Under ALP, 202 centres have been set up across Balochistan, with nearly 12,000 children enrolled in them.
The former government of chief minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch had imposed an emergency in the province to enroll out-of-school children. And despite a severe financial crisis, the Balochistan government pays over Rs4 billion in salaries to teachers monthly. Yet the provincial education sector paints a bleak picture.
"What an irony that we have only one girls' middle school per 361 sq km," Sanaullah Baloch lamented.