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AFGHANISTAN: Elections may jeopardize education, says NGO

KABUL, 30 July 2009 (IRIN) - The use of schools as polling and vote-counting stations during Afghanistan’s upcoming elections could provoke anti-education activities, an Afghan rights watchdog warns.

Polling for simultaneous presidential and provincial councils has been scheduled for 20 August and hundreds of schools across the country will be used as voting and vote-counting centres, according to Afghanistan’s Independent Elections Commission (IEC).

“Because Afghan and international security forces will be involved in the protection of voting centres and also because the election is a strong political process, which is backed by the government and its international backers, insurgent attackers may not distinguish schools from other voting centres,” states a briefing paper issued by the Kabul-based Afghanistan Rights Monitor (ARM) on 29 July.

While the insurgents have vowed to attack the election process and those involved, attacks on education facilities have already risen significantly this year.

From January to 30 June 2009, 123 schools were targeted by insurgents and 51 had received threats, ARM said, citing the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “At least 60 students and teachers were killed and 204 were wounded in security incidents in the same period.”

More than 400 schools, mostly in the volatile south, have remained closed due to insecurity, the Ministry of Education (MoE) said.

To mitigate possible security implications of the elections, ARM suggests the use of mosques and other locations as voting stations and calls on Afghan and international forces to reduce their presence at schools.

Abdul Saboor Ghufrani, an MoE official, said assessments were under way to gauge the security implications for schools.

“If students and teachers face serious risks we would ask for schools not to be used in the election process,” he told IRIN.

Previously the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) had voiced similar concerns about the use of health facilities in the process. MoPH had said voters’ registration, polling and vote counting in the health centres could expose health workers to high risk.

Child victims overlooked

Civilians have increasingly been affected by worsening insecurity in the country, according to the UN and NGOs.

According to ARM, more than 1,100 non-combatants, including 242 children, lost their lives in the conflict from January to end-June 2009.

“Child victims of the conflict are often overlooked by the warring parties and little has been done to alleviate their suffering,” Ajmal Samadi, ARM’s director, told IRIN.

“International military actors and the Afghan government have failed to protect and support child victims of their military activities while the insurgents have systematically used children as suicide attackers, foot soldiers, human shields and for other military purposes,” he said.

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Theme(s): (IRIN) Education, (IRIN) Governance

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Copyright © IRIN 2009
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.



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