Taliban 'to open schools'

The Afghan group says it will spend $1 million to counter Western propaganda.

    Taliban banned girls from schools during their rule and regularly attack teachers and students [AP] 


    The Taliban regularly refer to the elected government of Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, as puppets of the West.
     
    "Students will be taught subjects that are in line with Islamic teaching and jihad," he said late on Saturday.
     
    When the Taliban ruled large parts of Afghanistan from the mid-1990s until 2001, the movement earned international condemnation when they banned girls from schools and universities.
     
    Since being toppled by Hamid Karzai's Northern Alliance in 2001, the Taliban have attacked hundreds of schools and killed teachers and pupils as part of their war against the government and its Western backers.
     
    The AFP newsagency quoted the Taliban spokesman as saying that the schools would open this year and follow a curriculum used during the 1996-2001 rule of the Taliban government.
     
    The schools will be opened from March in 14 districts, he said. It was not clear if they would be open to boys and girls, or just boys.
     
    Progress in education
     
    Since Karzai's government took control of Afghanistan, most of the Taliban's educational changes have been reversed and today as many as six million children are back in classrooms.
     
    However Oxfam, the British charity, said in November that more than half of Afghanistan's children - about seven million - were still not in school, despite a five-fold increase in enrolments since the Taliban fell in 2001.
     
    In addition, about half of all Afghan girls of primary school age are not going to classes, partly because parents fear for their safety, Unicef said last year.
     
    Hundreds of schools, particularly in the volatile south and east, have closed, either because they were attacked or because teachers fear attacks.
     
    Mohammad Hanif Atmar, Afghanistan’s education minister, said in August that suspected Taliban attacks had killed at least 41 teachers and students in the previous 12 months, and security concerns had forced 208 schools to close.
     
    Taliban attacks on schools
     
    Analysts say the Taliban target schools to convince Afghans that the government can't protect them and can't control the country. In many areas, schools are the only symbol of government authority.
     
    The government and Unicef have set up a special task force to fight the problem, focusing on better surveillance, special monitoring teams and encouraging communities and parents to pass on information and help re-open damaged or destroyed schools.
     
    The Taliban operate across large parts of Afghanistan's south and east, but they have been unable to hold or administer any significant territory if challenged by Nato and US forces.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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