“Two students were tragically and needlessly killed in Laghman Province, and seven others and a teacher injured, when a mortar round struck their school. We cannot let children and schools continue to become victims of this escalating conflict,” said NRC Country Director in Afghanistan, Kate O'Rourke. “Education is increasingly becoming a casualty of the conflict.”
Around 10am Saturday 25 Feb, a mortar round struck a state-run classroom in the Shaheed Mawlawi Habib Rahman High School in the Besram area of Alingar District, in the Eastern province of Laghman.
“Everyone was in class when we heard the sound of a mortar being fired nearby,” said Abdul Latif Kochai, the School Principal. “Our students and nearby villagers frantically transported those injured to the hospital. The medical staff tried their best to treat them. Two of our male students died—one in Grade 7, the other in Grade 11.”
The day before, armed clashes between armed opposition groups and Afghan security forces had intensified near Besram, located near the border between Alingar and Mehterlam districts.
Neither side has accepted responsibility. However, around two hundred villagers protested later that day outside the Laghman Provincial Governor’s Compound in Mehterlam.
“This is tragedy for the families of these children and their communities. The aspirations of these students and teachers to contribute to a better future in their country have been destroyed in this senseless incident,” said O’Rourke. "The rise in attacks on education in Afghanistan undermines the progress made in the last decade. Afghan parents must increasingly choose between their children’s education and their safety."
International Humanitarian Law proscribes attacks on educational institutions by military forces.
“The Afghan Government is commended for being one of the first signatories to the Oslo Safe Schools Declaration. It must investigate all attacks on schools and hold those found responsible accountable,” said Will Carter, Head of Programme, NRC Afghanistan.
“The Government should not dismiss any information before it has conducted a thorough investigation. There is no evidence to suggest that the school was occupied by the Taliban, or had in some way become a legitimate military target. Instead, students were studying.”
The Government of Afghanistan endorsed the Oslo Safe Schools Declaration in a meeting hosted by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 29 May 2015, along with 36 other States. To date, 59 States are signatories to the Declaration.
The number of people displaced due to conflict has increased in Afghanistan over the past five years. More than 600,000 persons were internally displaced due to conflict in 2016 alone. On top of this, more than 600,000 Afghans returned from Pakistan between July and December 2016, with the majority settling in eastern Afghanistan.
In 2016, NRC supported the education of approximately 80,000 Afghan boys and girls affected by conflict and emergency in Afghanistan, including 10,000 in the Eastern region. This work is primarily funded by the EU (ECHO), Norway and Sweden (Sida).
In total, over 2016, NRC directly assisted 300,000 displaced persons through its wider programming in Afghanistan, which includes legal assistance, shelter, and education in emergencies. NRC maintains ten offices across the country, including in Nangarhar, which also responds to humanitarian needs in Laghman Province.
A second Safe Schools Declaration meeting is scheduled for 28-29th March 2017 in Argentina, aiming for increased commitment to the Oslo Safe Schools Declaration.