NEW YORK Attacks on schools in Afghanistan tripled in 2018, surging from 68 in 2017 to 192, the United Nations agency for children said in a report, as the Taliban and other extremist groups in the war-torn country continue to wage a campaign of violence against softer targets.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Tuesday said in a report that it was the first time since 2015 that a rise in attacks had been recorded.
“Education is under fire in Afghanistan,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
“The senseless attacks on schools; the killing, injury and abduction of teachers; and the threats against education are destroying the hopes and dreams of an entire generation of children.”
More than 1,000 schools across the country remain closed because of security threats from groups such as the Taliban and Islamic State, which have sought soft targets for attacks aimed at extending and consolidating their influence through intimidation. Half a million children were denied their right to education as result.
Although the Taliban have shifted from their previous opposition to all forms of girls’ education, they have faced regular accusations of shutting down schools run in a way they do not approve.
The UNICEF said the use of schools as voter registration and polling centers for the parliamentary elections in 2018 may have been a reason for the increase in the attacks.
An estimated 3.7 million children between the ages of 7 and 17 nearly half of all school-aged children in the country are out of school in Afghanistan.
Worsening insecurity, high rates of poverty and persistent discrimination against girls caused the rate of out-of-school children to increase last year for the first time since 2002. Girls account for 60 per cent of children not in education.
The UNICEF is working with the government and other partners to provide informal and accelerated community-based education. This includes running classes in community buildings and homes, helping to reduce the risk of insecurity on the way to school.
On Monday, the third International Conference on Safe Schools opened in Spain for decision-makers to discuss the implementation of the Safe School Declaration endorsed by 87 nations its challenges and lessons learned, at the national, regional, and international levels. The conference is an occasion to encourage cooperation and stronger gender-responsive practices.
As the International Conference opened, UNICEF calls for an end to all attacks on schools and urges all warring parties to protect education during armed conflict.