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Report Shows Scores Of Afghan Students, Teachers Killed In Attacks In First Half Of 2021

School workers place donated bouquets of flowers on the empty desks of students killed in a May 8 attack on the Sayed al-Shuhada school in Kabul's Hazara district.

A coalition of UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations says explosive weapons were used to attack about 40 schools in Afghanistan during the first half of this year alone, killing or wounding 185 students and teachers.

In a report released on September 7, the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) added that there had been more than 200 attacks with explosive weapons on Afghan students, teachers, schools, and universities between 2018 and mid-2021 as Taliban forces battled government troops in a war that ultimately led to the hard-line Islamist group’s takeover of Afghanistan last month.

Over the period of 2018 through mid-2021, more than 600 educators and students were reportedly injured or killed in air strikes, shelling, and blasts caused by improvised explosive devices, while more than 70 schools were said to have been damaged.

Other attacks on schools included arson, raids, and small arms fire.

“Armed forces and non-state armed groups should avoid using explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas, including near schools or universities or along routes to or from them,” GCPEA Executive-Director Diya Nijhowne said in a statement.

“Curtailing use of explosives would protect not only students, teachers, and education facilities but all civilians.”

According to the report, titled The Impacts of Explosive Weapons on Education: A Case Study of Afghanistan, nonstate armed groups such as the Taliban and Islamic State used explosive weapons to target girls’ education in Afghanistan at least twice a year between 2018 and mid-2021, reportedly killing or injuring at least 160 female students and education staff, while damaging or destroying at least five girls’ schools.

GCPEA noted that the attacks in Afghanistan coincide with an “alarming increase” in attacks on education globally, saying it has identified more than 2,400 attacks on education facilities, students, and educators in 2020 -- a 33 percent increase over the previous year.

The report was released ahead of the United Nations International Day to Protect Education from Attack, September 9.

GCPEA urged countries to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, a political commitment to protect students, educators, schools, and universities in armed conflict.

The declaration, which the coalition said “plays an essential role in preventing and mitigating the impact of attacks on education,” has been endorsed by 111 countries so far.

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