Ten schools torched in past three weeks
KABUL, 10 April 2008 (IRIN) - At least 10 schools
have been attacked by unidentified gunmen in different
parts of Afghanistan in the past three weeks, Ministry
of Education (MoE) officials told IRIN.
Armed assailants, believed to be associated with
Taliban insurgents, have torched three schools in
Kunduz, two in Kandahar, and one school each in
Helmand, Paktia, Khost, Wardak and Farah provinces
since the new school year began on 23 March, according
to the MoE.
Armed men broke into Ortablaq school in Imam Saheb
District of northern Kunduz Province and cut-off the
ears of a watchman before setting the school ablaze on
4 April, the Ministry of Interior said in a press
Apart from the torchings, there have been other
attacks: Kandahar Province Department of Education
officials said five schools had been attacked in the
same period; in another incident one teacher was
reportedly killed when a school was attacked in Khost
Province, southeastern Afghanistan, in late March, MoE
"Nearly all attacks on schools take place during
the night so there are no casualties among students,"
said Hamid Elmi, an MoE spokesman in Kabul.
Ministry of Education statistics shown to IRIN
indicate there were 2,450 "terrorist" attacks on
schools from March 2006 to February 2008. In the same
period 235 schoolchildren, students, teachers and
other education workers were killed, and 222 wounded.
About 500 schools have remained closed due to
insecurity, particularly in the volatile south where
Taliban insurgency has also hindered humanitarian and
development access. "Up to 300,000 students cannot go
to school because of insecurity and threats," said the
'Madrasas' not attacked
Taliban insurgents oppose female education and say
the school curriculum is "un-Islamic", a charge
rejected by the Afghan government and moderate Islamic
"Attacking schools, children and civilians is
fundamentally against Islamic principles," Afghan
President Hamid Karzai told a gathering of teachers in
Kabul in March. He said insurgents were attacking
schools and schoolchildren at the behest of the
"enemies of Afghanistan".
On the other hand, none of Afghanistan's 336
Islamic schools or 'madrasas', or their 91,000
students, have been attacked in recent years, Elmi
"Though the government promotes both 'madrasas' and
[secular] schools, the Taliban only attack schools,"
Most of the Taliban's senior leaders, including
spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, were reportedly
educated in 'madrasas' in Pakistan, and 'madrasas'
flourished in Afghanistan during their six-year rule
Record numbers at school
The school attacks intensified just as a record six
million pupils went back to school. "Never before in
the history of Afghanistan were six million students
at school," said Elmi, adding that over 35 percent of
them were female.
The unprecedented increase in the number of
children at school compares well with the the
situation six years ago when fewer than two million
were at school, but the safety of staff and pupils has
become a growing concern, officials said.
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), a
project the Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs. IRIN is UN humanitarian news and
information service, but may not necessarily reflect
the views of the United Nations or its agencies.
[This report does not necessarily
reflect the views of the United Nations]