June 13, 2007 13:18 ET

UNICEF Condemns Shooting Outside Afghan School

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN and TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 13, 2007) - UNICEF strongly condemned the shooting yesterday in front of a girls' school in the Logar province of Afghanistan which left two school girls killed and four injured, including a teacher.

"This is a heinous, cowardly act against students and a teacher whose only crime was to be in school," said UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan Catherine Mbengue. "By attacking students and the teacher, the perpetrators are attacking children's right to education and threatening the very fabric of Afghan society."

The attack took place in Qalai Saeeda girls' school, located in Pul Alam, near Kabul. Two gunmen on motorbikes opened fire as teachers and students were leaving school.

More than six million children in Afghanistan headed back to school in March this year, a considerable achievement for a country where years of war have left a heavy toll on the education system.

However, UNICEF is concerned that similar incidents - and the intimidation aimed at stopping families sending girls to school - could undo some of the excellent work undertaken so far in the education sector.

Although school enrolment has increased in the past few years, only 66 per cent of boys and 40 per cent of girls of the country's school-aged children are attending classes.

"The sight of girls in school is an obvious sign of progress, and there are those who are afraid of such progress," Mbengue said. "However, I do know that communities in Afghanistan want to see their children get an education and recognize the value of learning."

Canada is supporting UNICEF activities in Afghanistan - primarily in the areas of health, child survival and education. UNICEF has supported school building and repairs, school materials and textbooks, teacher training, salaries and curriculum development.

UNICEF is the world's leader for children, working in 156 countries and territories to save, protect and enhance the lives of girls and boys. UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, promotes quality basic education, protects children from violence, exploitation and AIDS, and is the world's largest provider of insecticide-treated bed nets and vaccines for developing nations. A global leader in emergencies with six decades of on-the-ground experience, UNICEF saves and rebuilds children's lives in natural disasters and conflict. UNICEF is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from individuals, businesses, foundations, schools, associations and governments.

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