By M Ilyas Khan
BBC News, Karachi
The Taleban movement has earmarked $1m to set up schools for children in southern Afghanistan, a senior official of the militant group has said.
There is a widespread lack of schools in southern Afghanistan
Abdul Hai Mutmain said a Taleban panel would start commissioning schools in March and April, 2007.
In much of southern Afghanistan there are no schools or most of them have been closed following arson and threats by armed militants.
The government blames the Taleban for these incidents, a charge they reject.
A Taleban statement said the schools would be run in accordance with a syllabus that was used in the mujahideen schools in 1980s.
The Taleban did not allow schools for girls
Qari Yousuf, a Taleban spokesman, told the BBC's Urdu service that the syllabus would include contemporary subjects such as history, geography, physics and chemistry, as well as Islamic subjects.
He said the schools would be established across eight southern provinces.
"The government controls the cities [in these provinces] but we control the entire countryside, so there should be no problem running these schools," Mr Yousuf said.
He said they would start with schools for boys only and would establish girls' schools later on.
When they were in power, the Taleban sometimes pledged to build girls' schools once things became more peaceful, but never did.
The Taleban were overthrown by US-led forces in 2001.
Educational infrastructure has been traditionally sparse in the backward southern hinterland of Afghanistan.
Most school buildings that did exist were wholly or partly damaged during 27 years of war that still continues.
In the more backward areas, few schools have regular buildings. Children either study under the trees or in tents.
During the last four years, these schools have been the target of a sustained campaign allegedly by Taleban militants.
Dozens of schools have been burnt and several teachers killed by gunmen who regularly distribute notices threatening students and teachers against attending government schools.
Taleban deny their role in this and say local people incensed over a syllabus developed under "US guidance" may be responsible.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai told the parliament recently that 182 schools were burnt by militants in the south of the country in 2006 alone.
In December, during a visit to Kandahar province, President Karzai admitted that almost half of over 700 schools in the southern zone, that includes Kandahar, had been sealed due to insecurity.
The situation in other provinces is worse, says Danish Karokhel, director of the Pajhwok news agency in Kabul.
In Zabul province, 148 out of a total of 188 schools remained closed during 2006, while in Ghazni province more than 50,000 students could not attend classes due to similar closures, he said, quoting education officials.
Mr Yousuf told the BBC the Taleban would begin establishing schools in areas which were most in need, and gradually expand to less deprived areas.
"People want education for their children, but they do not want to approach the government for this," he said.
"People support us, and they will send their children to schools established by us."
Analysts say parents in the war-affected regions would be keen to send their children to schools irrespective of who runs them.