Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Saturday that lack of educational facilities and attacks by Taliban have kept five million school-age children out of schools and pleaded with insurgents to stop such attacks.
"Five million of our school-age children can not still go to schools," Karzai told a gathering in a high-school, adjacent to his fortified presidential palace, in a ceremony to mark the beginning of school year.
While some children were restricted by economic hardship and lack of facilities in their areas, others were not allowed by their parents because of fears of attacks or their schools were burned down by the militants, he said.
During their reign from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban entirely banned girls' schools and changed educational curriculum for the boys' that resembled the one that is taught in religious schools.
Following their ouster of their regime by a US-led invasion some eight years ago, the militants have burned down hundreds of schools and targeted teachers and students - mainly in southern and eastern regions.
The attacks on schools reached their highest level in 2009, with more than 600 incidents recorded, according to a recent United Nations report.
Karzai once against called Saturday on Taliban militants to stop attacking schools in the country, saying "for whatever reasons you work against the education in Afghanistan, it is atrocity against Afghanistan and Islam".
Today there are nearly eight million children, including 40 percent girls, attending in around 13,500 schools, Afghan Education Minister Mohammad Farooq Wardak said in the same gathering. That number is up from around one million students - only boys- that
attended in more than 3,000 schools in early 2002.
Wardak said that there were "serious challenges" his ministry was still facing: while 442 schools remained shut across the country because of Taliban's threats of attacks, there were no professional female teachers 245 districts.
There were also no girls studying in high schools at all in around 200 out of country's 412 districts, he said.
Around 11 million Afghans, or more than one third of country's population, are illiterate, Wardak added.