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9 August 2006

The following statement was issued on 8 August by the Special Rapporteur on the right to education of the United Nations, Vernor Muñoz Villalobos:

“In my capacity as Special Rapporteur on the right to education, I would like to appeal to anti-government groups to halt a campaign of attacks on schools and the education system in Afghanistan. Earlier this year, I already expressed my outrage at the attacks on schools in various provinces of Afghanistan. These attacks result in loss of lives, destruction of already precarious infrastructures, the closing down of schools and prevent children from enjoying their fundamental right to education.

These attacks have increased exponentially over the past year. While in 2005 there were 60 violent incidents against schools, teachers, and students, between January and June 2006, at least 172 attacks on schools occurred. As a direct consequence, 200,000 to 500,000 children are denied the right to education in Afghanistan.

I am appalled that anyone would target children and their teachers. I reiterate my deep concern at the systematic attacks of schools in some parts of Afghanistan by terrorist groups with the apparent objective of forcing parents to refrain from sending their children to school and thus the authorities to close those schools. I, again, express my profound condemnation of the targeting of schools, children - boys and girls -, teachers and other innocent civilians for any reason. My thoughts are with the parents, family and friends of all those affected by these attacks.

Although girls’ schools and boys’ schools seem to be targeted indiscriminately, the attacks have a disproportionate impact on girls because of the lower number of girls’ schools and the particular reluctance of parents to expose their daughters to insecure schools and schools’ areas.
The fundamental human right to education includes the right to education in a safe and protected environment. Children have the right to safety in school establishments that are conducive to a positive learning environment. The right to education is essential for future generations to prosper.

I acknowledge the government’s endeavours and efforts to provide a secure environment to children and I call on the authorities to intensify such efforts and on the forces on the ground to ensure that schools, like any other public buildings, are adequately protected and that the safety of students, teachers and all education personnel is guaranteed.

I firmly condemn terrorism in all its forms, especially the targeting of children. Any response to terrorism should be firmly grounded on human rights and fundamental freedoms in order to further isolate those who commit such acts and to contribute to better security for all”.
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For use of the information media; not an official record