Page last updated at 15:24 GMT, Thursday, 22 May 2008 16:24 UK

Afghan schools closed by threats

By Pam O'Toole
BBC News

Boy at school in Bagram, north of Kabul, 24 March 2008
Many schools face threats from militants

More than 50 schools have been shut in the southern Afghan province of Ghazni after threats by suspected Taleban militants, a local politician says.

Provincial assembly member Habib Ruhman said teachers and pupils were staying away from most schools in five of Ghazni's 19 districts.

He said more than 10,000 students were affected. Ghazni education authorities put the number of schools shut at 16.

The Taleban control swathes of Ghazni and attack schools and kidnap teachers.

Threats to kill

Education has been one of the success stories in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taleban.

Teachers get threats from those opposing the government saying 'don't go to school otherwise you will be beheaded'
Ghazni student

Almost seven million children enrolled in school at the beginning of this academic year - up from less than a million during the days of the Taleban administration, which banned girls from going to school and women from teaching.

But over the past two years, schools have increasingly been in the front line of a war between the Afghan government and Taleban insurgents and their allies, with violence-ridden provinces in the south and east worst affected.

Militants have attacked or burned many schools - hundreds have been closed and teachers and students have been killed.

One young student called Najibullah said in his area of Ghazni, the problem dates back to almost the beginning of the Afghan year, which started in late March.

Map of Afghanistan

"Since nearly the beginning of this year, our schools have been shut," he told the BBC. "And teachers get threats from those opposing the government saying 'don't go to school otherwise you will be beheaded'.

"That's why they can't come to school and the school remains closed And our future is unclear. We ask the government to reinstate our schooling."

There is a tremendous thirst for knowledge in Afghanistan - some students are prepared to travel long distances to be educated.

But threats from the Taleban or other insurgent groups and general insecurity in some areas means that fear is taking its toll.

A few months ago President Karzai said the number of Afghan children missing school because of the Taleban insurgency had reached 300,000.

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