“A brutal, senseless attack on a school in eastern Afghanistan is the latest in a spate of violence against educational facilities in Nangarhar province. Afghan children must be better protected,” said Will Carter, Head of Programme for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Afghanistan.
“Unknown men entered our school last night, beheaded three of our guards and set fire to the administrative block in the school,” said Atiqullah Hamdard, Headmaster of the Malikyar Hotak High School in Khogyani District. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Malikyar Hotak High School is one of the oldest in the province, and enrols about 1,600 students. The Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) Education in Emergencies programme supports 115 displaced Afghan students in the school.
“The school is closed today. But we plan to resume our classes from tomorrow,” said Hamdard. “We ask the government to improve the security of schools everywhere.”
The Government of Afghanistan was one of the very first signatories to the 2015 Oslo Safe Schools Declaration, which commits to protecting students, teachers, and educational establishments from attack during times of armed conflict.
“The Afghan government must be supported in meeting its policy objectives and obligations under international law in adequately protecting education – students, staff, assets, and operations. But, this is no easy task,” said Carter. “Schools are being targeted, occupied, or used for different military and political purposes, and this must stop. Lives, hope, and the future of the country is being wasted.”
“We hear the Islamic State on their radio threatening us, saying that the schools are implementing the [“American’s Plan”], and that they will kill teachers and school guards,” said Sabit Ur-Rahman, the Education Director for Khogyani District.
“The Taliban have assured us that our school should remain open,” said Hamdard. “The students are brave and defiant, and want to return to education tomorrow.”
“All parties to the conflict and the international community must do everything in their power to prevent these attacks happening in the first instance, and give Afghan boys and girls safety and normalcy despite the conflict,” said Carter.
- In partnership with the Common Humanitarian Fund, NRC operates three Education in Emergency classes in Malik Hotak High School, as well as support for the school as a whole.
- The Norwegian Refugee Council is one of the largest Education in Emergency providers in Afghanistan. In 2017, our Education programme targeted over 100,000 displaced boys and girls in some of the most difficult provinces of Afghanistan, including Faryab, Kandahar, Khost, Kunar, Kunduz, Nangarhar, and Sar-e Pul. In 2018, we have opened Education in Emergency operations in Hirat and Uruzgan.
- Photographs of NRC Afghanistan's Education in Emergency programme are available here.
- Levels of violence against educational facilities have climbed recently, apparently accelerated by the use of schools as voter registration and polling centres in the forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. (N.B. The Malikyar Hotak High School is not being utilised as a voter registration centre).
- The 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan remains proportionally one of the poorest funded responses to major crises in the world, at less than 29% funding.