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Primary Schoolchildren In Afghanistan To Be Educated At Mosques

Afghan boys read the Koran at a madrasah or religious school in Kabul. (file photo)

KABUL -- All Afghan primary schoolchildren in the first three years are to be educated at mosques to give students a "powerful Islamic identity," in an unprecedented move that has drawn widespread public criticism.

Under the Education Ministry plan, students from grades one to three would attend their nearest mosque, according to a ministry statement published late on December 5.

After completing their third year at a mosque, the students would continue their education at regular secular schools, the statement said.

The plan is aimed at giving Islam a more central role in education, the statement said.

The announcement has already sparked widespread criticism, as many believe the move would further encourage extremism in the country.

Prominent Afghan writer Yaqoob Yasna wrote on Facebook that the mosques did not have a proper teaching environment, and sending children there would be a misuse of education and religion.

A well-known Afghan journalist, Mukhtar Wafayee, said the policy was a move toward the Talibanization of society. While normal schools operated during the Taliban regime in the 1990s, madrasahs or religious schools were common.

Even now, the Taliban asks students in areas under their control to regularly attend religious schools, in addition to their secular education.

Afghanistan has one of the worst records for school attendance in the world. According to a United Nations report, an estimated 3.7 million children cannot attend school due to war, poverty, and cultural barriers, 60 percent of those are girls.