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Decades of insecurity have strongly affected the children in Afghanistan. Under-five mortality rates are among the highest in the world and both health and education systems suffer from poor finances, lack of qualified professionals, and security problems.1 More than half of all children in Afghanistan are stunted due to poor nutrition.2

The Afghan Constitution has established the right to education for all Afghan nationals. However, the level of insecurity in many parts of the country prevents the vast majority of girls from attending school. According to data from the Ministry of Education, 46 per cent of girls were enroled in primary school, compared with 74 per cent of boys. At the secondary level only 8 per cent of girls and 18 per cent of boys enroled. But even in conflict-free areas, Afghan girls continue to face immense obstacles to education such as lack of girls’ schools, sexual harassment en route to school, and early marriage, which tend to prematurely end schooling.3

Terror on schools

Also, as a part of their campaign of terrorizing the civilian population, Taliban and other insurgent groups continously target schools, especially girls' schools. According to the Ministry of Education, in the first five months of the Afghan year 1387 (April-August 2009), 102 schools were attacked using explosives or arson, and 105 students and teachers were killed by insurgent attacks. Three girl schools in the central region were attacked with chemicals (thought to be pesticide or insecticide) in April and May 2009, injuring 196 girls according to the Ministry of Education.4 According to a survey conducted by Handicap International in 2005, there are at least 200,000 children living with permanent disability (physical, sensory and/or mental impairment). Because of three decades of conflict, Afghanistan is scattered with landmines and other explosives killing and/or maiming about 60 people, most of which children, each month.5

Working children and corporal punishment

Children's involvement in work is common in Afghanistan and is often another reason for not attending school. The UN special representative for children and armed conflict drew attention in 2008 to the taboo practice of bacha bazi (keeping boys as sex slaves by wealthy or powerful patrons). The government of Afghanistan has done little to tackle this abusive cultural tradition.6 Corporal punishment is widely used and recognized7, though to a certain extent is not entirely socially accepted. Physical violence exists to varying degrees within all families interviewed and most commonly children experienced slapping, verbal
abuse, punching, kicking, and hitting with thin sticks, electrical cables and shoes. Corporal punishment, a 2008 study showed, also used on children as young as 2 or 3 years and no clear difference between the punishment of boys and girls were identified.8

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