A Bleak Future with Education Under Attack in Afghanistan

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A Taliban fighter stands guard at the site of an explosion in front of a school, in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 19, 2022.
© 2022 AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi

Afghanistan’s children are bleeding again. Multiple bomb blasts on April 19 outside a high school and an education center in Kabul’s Dasht-e Barchi neighborhood left at least six people dead and twenty wounded, including children, and casualties could be much higher. This is just the latest assault on education in Afghanistan, which have traumatized families and dimmed hopes for their children’s future.

From 2015 to 2019, the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack recorded more than 1,000 attacks on students, teachers, and schools in Afghanistan, making it one of the worst affected countries in the world. One of the most devastating occurred last May, when a girls’ school, also in Dasht-e Barchi, was targeted by several bombs: 85 people died and 147 were wounded. Most of the victims were schoolgirls.

Dasht-e Barchi is home to Afghanistan’s Hazara community, an ethnic group that has faced discrimination and abuse by both the Taliban and successive Afghan governments. In recent years, the Islamic State of Khorasan Province, the Afghan branch of the Islamic State armed group, has carried out many attacks on schools and mosques in the area.

Every attack on education has a ripple effect. When Human Rights Watch travelled across Afghanistan interviewing out-of-school girls and their families, we often heard how fears stemming from school bombings and other violence against students, such as acid attacks, stop children, especially girls, and their families from feeling able to pursue education.

But physical attacks are not the only barrier Afghan students face. The school system is riddled with problems, including poor quality instruction, corruption, lack of female teachers, unaffordable costs, and lack of safe drinking water and toilets: all issues that have a disproportionate impact on girls.

Since taking power in August, the Taliban have dealt a devastating blow to the hopes of many children seeking a better future by banning girls’ secondary education, limiting access to higher education for women and girls, and replacing secular subjects with religious ones.

Education is a crucial ingredient if Afghanistan is to achieve economic development and a brighter future. These latest attacks make such hopes feel further away than ever. The Taliban should ensure there is a credible and transparent investigation of these attacks and end their own violations of the right to education. It is critical that the international community demands this of them.

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