Rashid Baloch, 12, works as a laborer in a garage in Balochistan’s Awaran district. When the sun rises, he moves to his garage in his town in Terteej and returns with the sunset. For his services during the day, he receives a sum of eight thousand a month, which helps a little to ease his financial situation. In the quest for making a living, Rashid has withdrawn from school. Despite the fact that his eyes tear up looking at other children of his age going to school with bags flung on their backs, he cannot help his circumstances.
Balochistan is quoted as the home for out-of-school children in Pakistan, with more than one million children away from schools, reveals UNICEF Pakistan’s report. As per data received from the Provincial Education Department, there are 12,218 primary schools, 8,394 for boys, 3,140 for girls and 684 for co-education, 1,519 middle schools,872 for boys, 645 for girls and 2 for co-education, and 720 high schools and 403 secondary high schools in the whole of the Balochistan province. In the status quo, the report says, 1 million and 4,242 children are enrolled in schools in the province, while another 1.89 million school-going-children are out of school. Alif Ailaan says more than 6,000 schools in Balochistan are run with a single teacher, while some 5,000 teachers are ghosts in the province.
“There is a school in my village but it has been closed for years,” says Raheem from Balgatar in Kech. To get an education, considering the fragile status of other schools of the nearby areas too, one has to turn to the main Turbat city, which is approximately 135 kilometers from Balgatar, which costs 500 to 700 rupees per round trip, or Panjgoor, which is approximately 120 kilometers away from the village and also requires 500 to 700 rupees per round trip. This is unaffordable for most people in the area, due to poverty and no relatives. “Who does not want their children to study, but I know how hard a time my family is going through to make ends meet,” says Raheem looking deep in the desolated farms near his home.
The report by Alif Ailaan says that there is a primary school in Balochistan every 30 kilometers; there is a middle school present every 250 kilometers, and there is a high school present every 260 kilometers in Balochistan. This dilapidated state of public education is accompanied by a 71% poverty rate in the province, as per data shared by UNDP Pakistan. Desolate economic conditions make it even harder for these children to attend school, in their communities or far away.
When I inquired about a lack of schools in many other villages surrounding Balgatar, Mr. Zahoor Ahmed Buledi, former provincial finance minister and representative of the constituency, said that when he was in the government’s finance office, he had himself made provisions for the construction of schools in the budget which, he says, were later on removed with the change of government.
“I study in the morning and work at night in a hotel to continue my education,” says 15-year old Yasir Baloch from Gresha, studying in Matric, and working simultaneously in Turbat. He is now working and managing his income, but he is worried about a higher education which he feels is at risk when he finishes his school life. “Things become tougher during college and university level, where I am afraid if I can get enough time for working,” Yasir says, thinking of the workload he will have to work with during his varsity classes.
Many children leave education when they graduate from the primary school in their village; most villages in Balochistan only have a primary school. One reason is a lack of educational institutes in the province, and the other is poverty. After quitting studies, they look for a job to make a living, which exacerbates the illiteracy rate in the province. Some students, when they find attending classes a barrier for their financial management, choose to go with private degrees at the intermediate, Bachelors and Masters level. But there is no private candidacy alternative in middle and high school, which causes innumerable students to quit permanently.
“I was studying in the second grade when I left,” says Bahad, 7, from the Kassak village of Kech district. When I asked what he does now, he pointed to his cattle, and said he also sang in marriages in nearby villages and receives little money which he gives to his parents. “We live our life and this is all we need,” he told me while looking at his father with a forced smile that betrayed his response’s lack of honesty.
“We know education is important, but we are far too poor to carry our sons and daughters far in the village every day for education,” says Allah Bakhsh, father of Bahad. They live in a mountain range some 4 kilometers away from Kassak village. The family work as shepherds, and usually visit the nearby gardens during date season to claim their share.
In Makran, farmers have a separate share for poor and needy people which are donated to people living in the mountain ranges. They are usually assigned various tasks to increase their share, for which they work themselves and also ask their children to join. Consequently, the children have to quit school to support their parents in working on the date farms.
“For us back in the government, the provision of educational facilities was a core tenet of our planning,” says Mr. Buledi. He adds that they were working on creating more schools in the province to enroll more and more children in schools. “We at the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) will try to bridge all these gaps in Balochistan very soon,” he says.
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