Violence prevents 300,000 Afghan children from attending school

Kabul – (IINA )January 22–Around 300,000 Afghan children cannot attend school because of violence in Afghanistan’s southern provinces, President Hamid Karzai told the parliament on its opening day yesterday. The number of children unable to go to school is sharply up — by 50 percent — from a year ago, when 200,000 children were forced to stay home because of security concerns, Karzai said. Most closures were in the country’s southern provinces where the Taliban insurgency is at its most violent, Karzai said. “The Islamic government of Afghanistan is going to fight with all its power against terrorism,” including those who kill religious clerics and school children, Karzai told lawmakers.

Karzai said 5.8 million Afghan children attend classes throughout the country — a huge increase from the less than one million students who attended school under the Taliban regime. However, they have been increasingly targeted across Afghanistan by insurgent attacks in recent months. In November, 61 students were killed in Baghlan province by a suicide bomber and ensuing gunfire from security guards. The bomber, who detonated his explosives during a large procession outside a sugar factory, also killed eight lawmakers. In June, gunmen killed two students walking outside a girls school in Logar province, The Associated Press reported.

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Karzai listed terrorism, the country’s opium poppies and drug trade, and endemic poverty as the country’s biggest challenges. He reiterated that the government is ready to welcome back militant fighters who lay down their arms and accept the country’s constitution, a theme Karzai has been hitting hard in recent months. “We keep the doors open for peace, reconciliation and negotiations for those countrymen who want to return to their country and accept and respect the constitution of Afghanistan,” he said.

22 Jan 2008