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Last Updated: Monday, 21 January 2008, 17:29 GMT
Afghan strife keeps children home
Afghan schoolgirls
Overall, school admissions have shot up since the Taleban era
There has been a sharp rise in the number of Afghan children forced out of school because of violence, President Hamid Karzai has said.

About 300,000 children in the south - where the Taleban-led insurgency is at its strongest - now stay at home, compared to 200,000 a year ago.

Mr Karzai was addressing the Afghan parliament as it began its third annual session since the Taleban were ousted.

He told parliament that "terrorism is still our main challenge".

The hardline Islamist Taleban were thrown out of power during the US invasion of 2001, but have mounted a comeback over the past two years.

The south of the country has seen the worst of the violence.

'Fear'

That is reflected in the 50% rise in the numbers of children kept at home by the violence there, Mr Karzai told parliament.

"The enemies of the country want schools to be closed... and our children deprived of education," Mr Karzai said, according to the AFP news agency.

"They do this with more force in the south and south-west... Unfortunately, around 300,000 children can't go to school from the fear of the terrorists."

There are many reasons why children - especially girls - miss out on school in Afghanistan, reports the BBC's Charles Haviland in Kabul.

Millions are deprived of it because their families in the deeply conservative country would rather girls worked in the household or boys herded livestock, he says - but this is confirmation that the rise in violence has exacerbated the problem.

Overall progress

In one notorious incident last June, two schoolgirls were shot dead outside their school south of Kabul.

Suspected Taleban rebels have also attacked teachers on numerous occasions.

But school intake figures are much better in more stable areas of the country, Mr Karzai said - with a million new admissions in those parts in this school year.

About six million Afghan children attend school - some six times the number during the years of rule of the Taleban, when girls' education was completely outlawed.



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