27 November 2018 - Afghanistan, Geneva

Increasing insecurity and a significant rise in school attacks puts almost two decades of progress at risk for Afghan children

A child drawing inside the tent she lives in with her family in northern Afghanistan

With twice as many UN-verified attacks on education in Afghanistan in the first half of 2018 than during the whole of 2017—and, the number of out-of-school children on the rise for the first time since 2002, according to an inter-agency study*—urgent action is needed to prevent more Afghan children from being excluded from the education system, the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) is warning today in a new briefing paper.

Attacks on Education in Afghanistan is being released to coincide with the Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan, taking place today (27) and tomorrow (28), where the Afghan Government and the international community will gather to discuss strategies for achieving peace and development in the country.

Education is key to Afghanistan’s future, and while there have been significant expansions in access to education for Afghan children— especially girls—since 2001, the paper highlights that the past year has seen a rise in targeted attacks on schools, teachers, and students.

“It is heart-wrenching to see mounting attacks on education in Afghanistan, putting at risk the progress made over the past 17 years, particularly in supporting girls’ education,” said Diya Nijhowne, GCPEA Executive Director. “It would be a travesty if years of dedicated work, not to mention billions of dollars of aid investment, is allowed to unravel.”

Between 2001 and 2015 there was a nine-fold increase in the total number of children going to school in Afghanistan. However, more than 3.7 million children, including 2.2 million girls, remain out of school, and these numbers have begun to increase in recent years. Provinces with higher levels of insecurity also have higher rates of children out of school, particularly girls.

In 2018, schools are being targeted for attack at some of the highest rates since 2011. In the first five months of this year alone, the government recorded 870 attacks on schools, threats or intimidation against students, education staff or facilities, or fighting by armed forces and groups in the vicinity of school grounds. Approximately 1,000 schools are currently damaged, destroyed, occupied by non-state armed groups or Afghan and international forces, or closed because of conflict.

GCPEA’s paper urges the Government of Afghanistan, international donors and agencies, and all parties to the conflict to do more to reverse the trend of increasing attacks on education, including by supporting the implementation of the commitments in the Safe Schools Declaration.

This Declaration is a political commitment to protect education in armed conflict that has been endorsed by 82 countries, including Afghanistan. The Declaration includes commitments to strengthen monitoring and reporting of attacks on education; restrict the use of schools and universities for military purposes, and increase resources allocated to investigating attacks and prosecuting perpetrators.

GCPEA also calls for gender-responsive implementation of the Safe Schools Declaration to take into account the different ways in which women and girls are impacted by attacks on education, including by considering GCPEA’s guidance, What Can be Done to Better Protect Women and Girls from Attacks on Education and Military Use of Educational Institutions.

“As Afghan and global leaders gather to enhance Afghanistan’s development and security, above all they should call on all parties to the conflict to respect the fundamental right of every child to education and to strictly refrain from attacking education,” added Nijhowne. “Schools and universities must be places of safety for students, where they are free to learn and develop the skills to build a brighter future for Afghanistan.”

The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack was formed in 2010 by organizations working in the fields of education in emergencies and conflict-affected contexts, higher education, protection, and international human rights and humanitarian law that were concerned about ongoing attacks on educational institutions, their students, and staff in countries affected by conflict and insecurity. GCPEA is a coalition that includes United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations.


* Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children: Afghanistan Country Study. Ministry of Education, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) - 2018

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