QUETTA, Pakistan, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Only about 1.3 million of the 3.6 million children in Pakistan's violence-ridden Balochistan province have access to schools, officials said.
The remaining 2.3 million children must go without education, said officials in the country's largest but most backward province, citing poverty, worsening law and order situation, and social barriers among the reasons, Dawn newspaper reported Thursday.
Resource-rich Balochistan, near Afghanistan and Iran, has been the scene of much ethnic, separatist and sectarian violence for years.
Ghullam Ali Baloch, the province's education secretary, told the newspaper only 1.3 million children have access to schools, which is far below the numbers in other provinces.
Balochistan Chief Minister Dr. Malik Baloch, while admitting the poor state of children's education, said his government is determined to bring the 2.3 million children to schools. He said substantial founds have been allocated to ensure quality education for the children and opening new schools and making dysfunctional schools functional in every part of the province.
He said many of the schools in the province operate out of just one room and have only one teacher.
"If we fail to bring these children back to schools, it would be disastrous," Baloch said.
The report said in areas of the province where there are no schools, most parents send their children to madrassas or religious schools.
"Madrassas provide food, accommodation and other facilities, something which schools cannot," educationist Niamatullah Khan said.
"People in remote areas still consider education as un-Islamic," he added.
Some of the children in those areas also must work on daily wages to supplement their family income, the report said.
The newspaper, quoting official sources, said there were more than 10,000 unregistered religious schools in the province. Government-run schools are no better as they have inadequate resources and in some of these schools, teachers just don't turn up.
The report said the problem gets complicated as more teachers flee the province due to threats to their lives and properties.
"There is (a) serious dearth of teachers in Baloch areas as result of the growing insurgency," Niamatullah Khan said.