5 million Afghan children are out of school, and 400k more expected to drop out this year

BE2C2 Report — Millions of Afghan children will not attend school this year and 400,000 more are expected to drop out of school due to growing instability, deepening economic crisis and the returns of Afghan refugees from Pakistan, according to global charity Save the Children.

The US-headquartered NGO operating in Afghanistan says nearly a third of all school-aged children – close to five and a half million – are being kept at home.

Afghan refugees, who have voluntarily returned from neighboring Pakistan with assistance from United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), attend an open-air school outside their temporary shelters in Laghman province, Afghanistan, 16 February 2017.

It has warned that young Afghans are at risk of exploitation, including child labor, recruitment by armed groups, and child marriage.

“We know that children who aren’t going to school are at increased risk of early marriage, entering the workforce where they can be exploited, or even recruitment into armed groups or being trafficked,” the group’s Afghanistan director Ana Locsin said in a statement Thursday.

According to the statement, more than 610,000 Afghans returned from Pakistan in 2016 and up to one million more will return this year to the war-torn country.

Raqibullah, 12 – Afghan boy out of school (NYT Dispatch from Afghanistan)

“Over half of all returnee children are currently out of school, often working on the streets,” the advocacy group said.

Conflict has also forced more than 1000 schools to shut, authorities have reported in the past months.

That today millions of children are going to school in Afghanistan, including girls, has long been considered a success story of international aid efforts in Afghanistan.

Recently, however, figures have been called into question, according to Aljazeera.

In December, education minister Asadullah Balkhi claimed that figures previously presented by the Afghan government and international organisations were incorrect.

Instead of the claimed 11.5 million, only a little more than 6 million children were actually in school, Balkhi said.

The first day of the new school year in Afghanistan started on Thursday.

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