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UNICEF Says Militant Attacks On Afghan Schools Tripled In 2018

Afghan schoolgirls in Kunar Province
Afghan schoolgirls in Kunar Province

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) says militant attacks on schools in Afghanistan increased almost threefold last year, making it increasingly difficult to ensure education for children in many parts of the country.

The agency, which promotes education and children's rights, said in a report on May 28 that the number of attacks against Afghan schools jumped from 68 in 2017 to 192 in 2018.

It was the first time since 2015 that a rise in attacks had been recorded.

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said that "education is under fire in Afghanistan."

"The senseless attacks on schools; the killing, injury, and abduction of teachers; and the threats against education are destroying the hopes and dreams of an entire generation of children," she said.

More than 1,000 schools across the country remain closed because of security threats from militant groups like the Taliban and Islamic State, which have sought soft targets for attacks.

Although Taliban leaders say they have shifted from their previous opposition to all forms of girls' education, the militant group faces regular accusations of shutting down schools run in a way they do not approve.

UNICEF said the use of school buildings as voting stations during the 2018 parliamentary election might have been a factor behind the increased number of attacks.

Although Afghanistan has a young and fast-growing population, UNICEF said on May 28 that about 3.7 million Afghan children -- nearly half of all school-age children -- were not enrolled in formal education.

Based on reporting by Reuters and The New York Times
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