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Thursday, 31 October, 2002, 16:18 GMT
Attacks on Afghan schools condemned
Afghan students at a girls school
The attackers razed several girls schools
The United Nations Children's Fund, Unicef, has condemned the burning of four girls' schools in a province in central Afghanistan.

"Unicef deplores all attacks on schools as being an attack on the very foundation of reconstruction and development in Afghanistan," said Edward Carwardine, a Unicef education officer.


We have the very clear feeling from both officials and ordinary people that this is unacceptable. They want their kids in school

Edward Carwardine
The fires, which took place in four different villages in Wardak province to the west of Kabul, damaged buildings and destroyed equipment but no-one was injured.

Mr Carwardine said the girls were left shocked and in tears at the scale of the destruction.

Habiba Sarabi, Afghan minister for women's affairs, has also strongly condemned the destruction.

"It's the work of groups against women's rights. Every child has a right to education in Afghanistan," she told the BBC.

Mrs Sarabi is expected to bring the matter up with Hamid Karzai, the transitional president of Afghanistan, next week.

Arson attacks

A rocket was first fired at the Fatima Tul Zokhura primary school, blowing a hole in the roof and sparking a small fire, Mr Carwardine said.

A second rocket struck a wall in the Deh Afghani primary school in Maidan Shahr, damaging a classroom.

In the nearby village of Charaka, floor matting and blackboards were taken from the Naswane Amar Baba school, situated in the village mosque, and set alight in the mosque grounds.

A fire was also started at a makeshift school in a restaurant in the small town of Jalrez, less than 10 kilometres (seven miles) from Maidan Shahr.

The restaurant building had been donated by its owner to house the first-ever girls school in the community.

There were no casualties as the attacks occurred at night when the schools were empty.

Defiant parents

Despite the attacks, Mr Carwardine said the majority of people in Afghanistan are keen for their children to be educated - boys and girls alike.

A female pupil removes her burqa as she arrives at school
Older girls are making up for lost time
"We have the very clear feeling from both officials and ordinary people that this is unacceptable. They want their kids in school," he said.

He said the fires will do nothing to crush the desire for education among ordinary people.

"With the exception of the Jalrez, where the owner has yet to decide if the school can continue, pupils have returned to the classrooms to take their end of year examinations," he said.

Previous attacks

Mr Carwardine said he did not know who was behind the arson attempts, or whether they were connected, but these attacks are just the latest in a series of unexplained assaults on Afghan schools.

Earlier this month, a small explosion at a school in the southern city of Kandahar injured a teacher.

In September, two school tents were burned down in the northern province of Sar-e-Pol.

The attacks are normally preceded by so-called night letters - pamphlets distributed overnight warning parents not to send their daughters to school.

The pamphlets also warn women not to appear in public without wearing a burqa, the all-enveloping covering associated in the West with the reign of the Taleban.

Under the Taleban regime girls were prohibited from attending school.


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03 Oct 02 | South Asia
23 Mar 02 | South Asia
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16 Mar 02 | Americas
06 Feb 02 | South Asia
06 Feb 02 | South Asia
07 Jul 02 | Country profiles
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