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Attacks on Afghan Schools Could Erode Progress

Attacks on Schools in Afghanistan Could Erode Fragile Progress – UNICEF

New York, Aug 4 2006 10:00AM

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned today that schools in Afghanistan are the targets of increasingly dramatic attacks and called on all parties not to target any students, teachers or educational institutions.

Reported incidents have spread from the south and southeastern region to all of the provinces and include 11 explosions, 50 school burnings and 37 threats against schools and communities.

In four southern provinces it is estimated that more than 100,000 children are shut out of school because of school closures. Children and teachers are under increasing threat and being denied their right to a safe teaching and learning environment.

As of July 2006, the UNICEF School Incident Database – a UNICEF-run monitoring system – totaled 99 cases, or more than six times the number of incidents from the same period in 2005. Six children have died as the result of the violence.

While UNICEF and the Afghan Government are taking steps to protect children and schools, the latest school-security related incidents are becoming increasingly worrisome. The education structure is still shaky following years of political turmoil, including denial of education for girls, under Taliban rule and subsequent ongoing conflict.

“With all that the children of Afghanistan have gone through, to expose them to this kind of terrible violence is appalling,” said Bernt Aasen, the UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan. “The children of Afghanistan have a right to education. Threats, intimidations and violent attacks on students in schools undermine the very fabric of the future of Afghan society.”

“We must not allow the progress that was made in establishing access to quality education to 5.2 million children be destroyed because we did not try hard enough to protect children’s right to be taught in a safe learning environment.” said Aasen.

UNICEF praised the work of the government and its partners in making Afghan schools a place of learning and not of fear.

“If we want our children to grow up non-violent, we must do everything we can to ensure that their schools are as safe as they possibly can be,” said Aasen.

UNICEF called on all parties to cease targeting children, education workers and schools.

In response, UNICEF, Ministry of Education and other partners have set up a special task force to devise solutions that is strengthening protection of students, teachers, school officials and schools themselves and providing a rapid response when incidents arise.

When incidents do occur, UNICEF, if security allows, is on-site within 72 hours providing classroom tents, teaching-learning stationary materials, blackboard, chalks and floor mats so as to restore normal functioning of schools as soon as possible.

ENDS

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