Alexa

Atmar bemoans militant attacks on Kabul kids

Leader says that targeting Afghan schools aims to debilitate government authority

Atmar bemoans militant attacks on Kabul kids

Militant attacks on Afghan schools last year killed 85 students and teachers and destroyed 187 schools, the Afghanistan education minister said yesterday.
More than half of Afghan children do not have facilities to go to school, while 60 percent of those enrolled "study under tents, in the shade of walls and trees or in some cases, under the hot sun," Education Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar said in a speech marking Education Day.
"The enemy of our nation ... has targeted our education system through destruction and inhumanity," Atmar told thousands of students at a stadium in Kabul. He said militants were "killing our innocent teachers and students and burning our schools."
The number of students attending school has skyrocketed from Taliban times, when girls were forbidden to go to school and boys could only study Islam, rather than secular subjects.
Signs of hope
About 5.4 million students were enrolled in school last year, of which 35 percent were girls, the ministry said. It said 187 schools were burned down last year, 85 teachers and students were killed, and 350 schools were closed.
In a sign of hope, Atmar said 1,100 schools are being constructed or are planned, and the ministry expects 800,000 new students to enroll in the current school year.
Insurgents say that educating girls is against Islam and oppose government-funded schools for boys because they teach subjects other than religion. Targeting schools is also considered a tactic to shake the authority of the U.S.-backed government.
Crimes of youth
During his speech, Atmar criticized the videotaped execution of an alleged Taliban traitor by a young boy, who looked barely 12 years old.
"The enemy again committed another crime - instead of sending a child to school they made him behead a man," Atmar said.
In school attacks this month, the Interior Ministry said that militants in eastern Khost province burned tents used by 600 students. Insurgents also set fire to a school in northern Takhar province, destroying 6,000 textbooks.
Human Rights Watch reported that anti-government forces carried out at least 190 bombing, arson and shooting attacks on teachers, school officials, students and schools last year - up from 91 such attacks reported in 2005.
A report in November from aid organization Oxfam said 5 million Afghan children now attend school, up from less than a million during Taliban rule. However, 7 million children still do not attend classes, it said, with only one in five girls attending primary school and one in 20 attending secondary school.