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In Rare Rise, Nearly Half Of Afghan Children Out Of School

FILE: In this photograph taken on December 23, 2017 Afghan school children play at an open-air school at the Gambiri Refugee Camp in Laghman province.

Almost 3.7 million children in Afghanistan are unable to go to school due to ongoing conflict, poverty, and discrimination against girls, the United Nations’ Children's Fund (UNICEF) says.

The figure, part of the Global Initiative On Out Of School Children report released on June 2, represents almost half of all Afghan children aged between 7 and 17.

It marks the first time that the out-of-school rate has increased since 2002, according to the study, which calls for a continued commitment on the part of the Afghan government and civil society groups to address the matter.

“Now is the time for a renewed commitment to provide girls and boys with the relevant learning opportunities they need to progress in life and to play a positive role in society,” UNICEF Afghanistan Representative Adele Khodr said in a statement.

The report indicates that persistent discrimination against girls is a major factor driving down school attendance. Girls account for 60 percent of those being denied an education.

In the provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Wardak, Paktika, Zabul, and Oruzgan, up to 85 percent of girls are not attending school.

But the study also notes that dropout rates are low, with 85 percent of boys and girls who start at the primary level managing to stay in school to complete all grades. The figures are even higher for those who begin at the secondary-school level.

The report comes as the Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

The Taliban has stepped up its attacks against Afghan security forces as well as government officials across the country since the announcement of its spring offensive in April.

Khodr insisted that getting girls and boys into school is “so much more than sitting in class.” She said it is about providing routine and stability, “which is a wise investment given the insecurity across parts of the country.”

“When children are not in school, they are at an increased danger of abuse, exploitation, and recruitment,” she also said.