ISLAMABAD: Government of Japan will provide a grant of approximately $3.5 million to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for supporting its initiative to provide quality alternative education to out-of-school children and adolescents in Pakistan. Notes to this effect were signed and exchanged between Ambassador of Japan to Pakistan Takashi Kurai and UNICEF Representative in Pakistan Aida Girma and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Chief Representative Yasuhiro Tojo. The grant will be used by UNICEF during its new country programme (2018-2022), to establish 400 centres under the Alternative Learning Programme (ALP), led by the government. Nearly 15,000 adolescents between the ages of nine to 16 as well as younger children would get a second chance to quality primary education at these centres to be established in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan. It would also help these children and adolescents to be mainstreamed into the regular education system at lower secondary and secondary level. Speaking at the signing ceremony, Takashi Kurai said, “Education plays a critical role not only for the development of individual talents and ability, but for the overall economic development of the nation. For the purpose of ensuring inclusive and quality education for all, Japan will continue to support improvement of education in Pakistan and I do believe that the society in which everyone shines will be achieved.” Yasuhiro Tojo said, “Non-formal education (NFE) has been a consistent priority of JICA since 2004. Our on-going technical assistance has multiple aspects including inputs to Pakistan Education Statistics to plan, implement and monitor NFE interventions across Pakistan through an integrated credible source of information.” He hoped that the new grant led by UNICEF in collaboration with JICA’s technical assistance will contribute to the expansion of NFE in Sindh, Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. While expressing gratitude to the government and people of Japan, Aida Girma said, “Today’s ceremony reinforces the high level and longstanding support of the government of Japan to UNICEF in its efforts to provide quality education to children of Pakistan. We are committed to give children and adolescents, especially from the marginalised communities, a second chance at receiving quality education and escape intergenerational poverty. As one of the largest donors for UNICEF in Pakistan, the government of Japan’s continued support is invaluable.” Under the guidance of the Federal Ministry of Education & Professional Training and in collaboration with the provincial education departments, of the total 400 ALP centres, 90 will be established in KP, 160 in Balochistan and 150 in Sindh. A total of 13 priority districts have been selected across the three provinces for establishing these centres with a special focus on the enrolment of girls. The ALP centres will have trained facilitators, learning materials and curriculum. Communities will be mobilised for enrolment and retention of children and adolescents. Published in Daily Times, March 1st 2018.